New European Space Agency graduates assigned their first missions

Two newly-graduated European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts have been assigned their first missions to the International Space Station.

France’s Sophie Adenot and Belgium’s Raphael Liegeois will embark on their maiden spaceflights in 2026.

They are the first of the five astronauts from the ESA’s class of 2022 to be assigned long-duration missions to the space station.

Ms Adenot is scheduled to fly first, followed by Mr Liegeois, the space agency said.

British astronaut Rosemary Coogan is among two others – Spain’s Pablo Alvarez Fernandez and Switzerland’s Marco Sieber – waiting for spaceflight assignments.

Raphael Liegeois and Sophie Adenot during their parabolic flight training
Raphael Liegeois and Sophie Adenot during their parabolic flight training (A Conigli/ESA/PA)

The ESA said it intends all five new astronauts to embark on missions to the space station by 2030.

During their missions, the astronauts will perform various scientific experiments, conduct medical research, contribute to Earth observation, and be involved in space station operational and maintenance tasks.

Ms Adenot said: “It’s a tremendous honour to be selected for this mission!

“I am really enthusiastic to begin a new part of this journey that will allow me to contribute to scientific research and exploration aboard the International Space Station.

“And to think I will be able to do so representing France and Europe with ESA gives a new dimension to this adventure.”

Mr Liegeois said: “Just one month ago, we all gathered to celebrate the end of our basic training, and now I have the chance of being assigned a mission to the ISS.

“I simply cannot wait to tackle this new upcoming challenge and to be able to wear, up there, the colours of Belgium and ESA!”

ESA director-general Josef Aschbacher said: “The assignment of Sophie and Raphael as the next ESA astronauts flying to the International Space Station marks a significant milestone for ESA and its astronaut class of 2022.

“It is a tangible result of our commitment to continue a strong European presence in an international context.

“As exploration activities develop at an unprecedented rate, sending two newly graduated ESA astronauts to space is a crucial stepping-stone in the path of preserving European knowhow, ensuring Europe’s long-term participation in ongoing programmes such as Artemis as well as in any future projects involving human spaceflight and exploration.”

Before their journey to space, both Ms Adenot and Mr Liegeois will have to take part in pre-assignment and mission-specific training – which involves gaining in-depth skills to operate, service and maintain different areas of the space station as well as learning to work with fellow astronauts.