VILNUS – 80 candidates from Lithuania, including 62 men and 18 women, are partaking in the European Space Agency's astronaut selection, with a total of almost 22,600 applications received so far this year, almost triple of the number of applications received during the last selection in 2008.
"It's historic, having so many applications for a handful of jobs. It shows that the competition is high," ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher told a press conference on Wednesday.
Applications could be submitted by June 18.
The ESA's head of human spaceflight and robotic exploration David Parker says the deadline had been extended for astronauts from Lithuania had time to submit their applications after Lithuanian became the ESA'a associate member in late May.
"Lithuania became our latest associate member state of the European Space Agency right at the end of May this year. That was one of the reasons why we slightly extended the opening period for candidate astronauts to apply. We are delighted to see 80 applications from Lithuania," he told the press conference.
4-6 regular astronauts will be picked by the end of 2022, as well as up to 20 reserve astronauts, including one astronaut with a disability, the ESA representatives said.
Lithuania has so far not had astronauts who have flown into the space.