Thumbs Up for Germany’s First Female Astronauts
A fighter pilot and a meteorologist could be Germany’s first female astronauts.
A private group is hoping to raise 50 million euros ($53.6 million) to send a German woman to the International Space Station by 2020. Until now, Germany’s eleven astronauts have all been male, starting with Sigmund Jaehn from East Germany in 1978.
“Die Astronautin” (female astronaut) project was kicked off by the private human resources company HE Space after its CEO, Claudia Kessler, said she was frustrated by the fact that Germany still had not sent a woman into the beyond.
Though the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has been around for over 100 years, only 11 men from Germany have left planet Earth. The group received applications from 400 women, of whom 80 underwent medical and psychological tests at the German Aerospace Center.
By fostering such a large competition, HE hopes Die Astronautin will inspire more girls and women to become interested in spaceflight. “We have shown that Germany’s women have the skills to fly into space,” said Kessler in a press statement. “Now we have to prove that the people of Germany believe in the candidates.”
A panel of experts picked the two finalists—German air force Eurofighter jet pilot Major Nicola Baumann and meteorologist Insa Thiele-Eich. Insa is also the daughter of German astronaut Gerhard Thiele, who spent 11 days in space in 2000 on a NASA Space Shuttle Endeavor mission.
The finalists were announced Wednesday at an event in Berlin. Both will start training, and the winner will be selected at a later date with the other as backup.
Regardless of who eventually gets picked, the significance of this competition cannot be overstated. Obviously, it will be historic that Germany will finally put a woman into space, since all of its astronauts have so far been men. But it will also provide scientists with an opportunity to gather information on the physical impacts of spaceflight on female astronauts, a subject we still know very little about.