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Spanish astronauts “dream of everything” after joining the European Space Agency

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A lot of illusion and happiness, nerves, emotion, complicity or “goose-flesh” These are some of the words that Pablo Álvarez and Sara García use to describe what they have been experiencing since yesterday, when they were elected astronauts of the European Space Agency (ESA)and optimism, because “You always have to dream about everything”.

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In an interview with EFE, both have recounted the moments before the announcement by the ESA in Paris, of the “secret” best kept, who they told first and why they showed up for the process and have talked about the hardness and demand of training and the future: both are optimistic about participating in missions.

Pablo Álvarez Fernández, an aeronautical engineer and from León, like her, has been selected as a career astronaut, as a starter, and Sara García Alonso, a biotechnologist and researcher, as a substitute.

Álvarez acknowledges that for him it will be a “pretty big change”but it has “I really want to start and live this experience to the fullest”.

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From now on, an intense training process will begin that will begin in a few months at the ESA astronaut center in Cologne (Germany); This will be divided into two years, one for basic training and another for an incremental one, more focused -he explains- on learning how the International Space Station works and what it could do even outside of Europe.

And then there will be a third training, more specific to the mission you are going to carry out.

Álvarez is aware that space exploration is experiencing a peak moment, for example, the recently launched Artemis I mission as a prelude to the return of humans to the Moon and in the future to Mars.

Among the group of the new five starting astronauts could be one of those who will participate in missions to the Moon in the coming years, orbiting it and perhaps setting foot on its surface. When asked if he thinks so, he points out: “It’s difficult, I’m speechless”.

When they met the ESA’s oldest class of astronauts yesterday, they talked about this, about a European stepping on the Moon, and Álvarez admits that hearing it made him “Goosebumps. It’s true, but it’s a very long road, you have to start training first, be assigned a mission and then we’ll see. You have to dream of everything”.

Sara García, who will not have a job relationship with ESA but will have to pass annual medical examinations in case the agency requires it, recounts that yesterday she spoke a lot with Mattihas Maurer, an astronaut who was not a regular and who ended up traveling to the space station: “I am open, I am optimistic, I think of it as a long-term process”.

The hardest part of the long selection process of 18 months, she indicates, was the waiting and she says that she applied because she sees in being an astronaut a profession that combines many of the things she has always sought: experiments -she does them at the National Center for Oncological Research, CNIO-, technological development, teamwork, multidisciplinary groups and adventure.

Álvarez, more closely linked to the sector, saw in the call a unique opportunity, a train that only passes once in a lifetime. She did not tell almost anyone but he explains that the motivation letter was shown to all of her friends so that they “they will check the semicolons”.

They found out the result two hours before the announcement, and why they and not others, difficult to explain, agree.

García points out that it is necessary to have professional, medical, physical and technical capacities, but from there the variables are many. “There is a bit of luck too”.

Álvarez declares that if all the candidates were put back in the starting box, the 22,500, another 17 different people would possibly reach the end. “The process is so hard and selective that the difference between one and the other is very little”.

They are both proud that, of the 17 chosen, 8 are women and that there is also a person with a disability in the group: “space belongs to everyone and we cannot leave a large part of the population behind”summarizes Álvarez.

The aeronautical engineer says that the first person he told that he was an astronaut was his parents and the biotechnologist, who will go to the CNIO tomorrow, his partner. Both dreamed of being Pedro Duque and both say they were linked to space in some way since they were little, since they observed the sky without light pollution in towns from León, hunting for shooting stars and constellations.

Source: Gestion

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