‘I am proud to represent our country!' Polish scientist joins elite European Space Agency's 'Astronaut Class of 2022'
A Polish scientist has been selected ahead of over 22,500 other candidates to join the European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Class of 2022, the Polish Space Agency (POLSA) told PAP on Wednesday.
Sławosz Uznański was named in a group of 17 men and women chosen from the thousands who submitted an application in 2021 in response to the ESA’s call for new astronauts for missions to the International Space Station and beyond.
He will be one of 11 from the class who will join the ESA Astronaut Reserve.
Uznański said: "This is certainly one of the most important days of my life, but also a unique moment for Polish science and Polish participation in space exploration - recognition of our achievements and highlighting our potential.
"As a Pole, I am proud to represent our country in the implementation of the joint European space programme.
“Our participation in it is already significant. I am convinced that it will be significantly larger.”
Grzegorz Wrochna, President of the Polish Space Agency, added: “This is a huge success for our astronaut, but also a distinction for Poland.
“Our development and civilizational progress in recent decades has been noticed and appreciated by our European partners.”
Uznański defeated other applicants from all over Europe in the ESA qualifying rounds, which lasted 18 months.
Candidates had to take various tests on their knowledge of space and space technology, and to demonstrate intelligence and computational efficiency, and an ability to solve timed complex and unusual problems.
An advantage the Pole had is the experience he has gained working at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva as an operator of the Large Hadron Collider LHC.
Uznański is also involved in the design of radiation-resistant electronics, which must be used in space.
His class of 17 will start a 12-month basic training course at the ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in spring 2023.
Six of the 17 will have ESA contracts while 11 will join the ESA Reserve. The former are practically guaranteed flights to the International Space Station (ISS), and perhaps even to one of NASA's lunar missions carried out with the participation of the ESA.
Members of the astronaut reserve can join them at any time and will start intensive training if the ESA expands manned programmes, in particular the use of the ISS.
The first and only Pole to ever go into space was former fighter pilot Mirosław Hermaszewski who in 1978 flew onboard the Soviet Soyuz 30 spaceship.
Chosen from a pool of 500 Polish military pilots to take part in the Interkosmos space programme in 1976, minutes before takeoff Hermaszewski said: “I, a citizen of the Polish People's Republic, feel honoured being granted the opportunity to carry out a spaceflight on the Soviet ship Soyuz 30 and the orbital station Salyut 6.
“The confidence entrusted in me I will not disappoint.”
In 1985, he co-founded the Association of Space Explorers and later became President of the Polish Astronautical Society, which he held until 1990.