The European Space Agency (ESA) said Tuesday it is recruiting new astronauts for the first time since 2008 and encouraging women and people with disabilities to apply.The announcement Tuesday came in a virtual news briefing that included ESA Director General Jan Worner and current agency astronauts. Worner said while ESA still has astronauts from the last selection process, it needs new astronauts to “secure a continuity” and ensure a smooth transfer of knowledge from one class to another.Worner said the agency is looking to add up to 26 permanent and reserve astronauts. And it is strongly encouraging women to apply, as well as people with disabilities to its roster to boost diversity among crews. The agency has launched a “parastronaut” program designed to examine what is needed to get disabled astronauts onto the International Space Station.ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti said if technology can allow other humans to work and thrive in space, it can do so for the disabled as well. “When it comes to space travel, we are all disabled. You know, we all have a disability because we were just not meant to be up there. So, what brings us from being, you know, disabled, to go to space to being able to go to space is technology.”Requirements for an astronaut job at ESA include a master’s degree in natural sciences, engineering, mathematics or computer science and three years of post-graduate experience. But the agency says it is looking for “all-arounders,” not specialists.The application process begins March 31 with all details available on the ESA website. The period will run until May 28 of this year with the outcome expected to be announced in October 2022. 

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