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In 2021, the European Space Agency launched a new wave of recruitment to select the next generation of astronauts. In 2021, Our Giant Leap (now Diversity and Gender Equality Project Group of SGAC) started a series on the 2021 ESA astronaut recruitment campaign, in order to encourage more women to apply but also to highlight the importance of greater diversity in the next generation of astronaut crews. In addition, the unique ESA parastronaut selection campaign was brought forward. The three episodes held in 2021 were “Why do we need more women astronauts?”, “Tips to prepare your application” and “One of them to be the next generation of astronauts?”.
One year after these 3 episodes, the Diversity and Gender Equality Project Group of SGAC is launching a fourth episode to invite astronaut candidates (no longer in the run) to share their experience, anecdotes and lessons learned with us. The audience will have the opportunity to hear their feedback on the overall selection process (in the limit of what they are allowed to say), and ask questions to real-life past astronaut candidates!
This webinar “They were ESA astronaut candidates for one year!”, will be held July 20th 2022 on space exploration day! Come meet adventurous previous astronaut candidate Laura Jourdan, and fearless previous parastronaut candidate Neil Hopper!

 

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Speakers:

 

 

 

 

Neil Hopper

Neil Hopper is a 46 year old Vascular Surgeon working at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, UK, married to Rachel (a Matron in Cancer Services). Neil and Rachel have 2 children. Neil would describe himself as a space and sci-fi nerd, he enjoys electronics as a hobby and also messes around with 3D printers.

Neil Hopper graduated top of his year from the University of Wales College of Medicine in 2000 and also has a degree in Anatomical Sciences and a Doctorate in Research Medicine. The majority of his postgraduate training was in Wales. In 2011, Neil undertook a year long fellowship in St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. He returned to Wales and then in 2013  was appointed as a consultant at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.

In April 2019, Neil became unwell with sepsis and lost both legs below the knee. He returned to part-time work in October 2019 and resumed full duties with full on-call in February 2020. Since his return, Neil also became a clinical lecturer in Anatomy for the University of Exeter.

Neil found being on the other side of the knife difficult but that it has also afforded him new opportunities. In 2020, Neil applied to the ESA Parastronaut programme – to try and fulfill a lifelong dream of training as an astronaut. Along the way, he was able to communicate about his unique journey on social media. In the future, he would like to contribute to research on prosthetics – “One day they will not just remedy a deficit but add new and enhanced functionality!”, he says

Laura Jourdan

Laura Jourdan is a French polar explorer. Educated as a biologist, she caught the polar virus on Svalbard in 2016. Fascinated by the extreme conditions of the Norwegian Arctic archipelago, she decides to stay there to study polar guiding.

First employed as a logistics facilitator for The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) in a remote settlement where she lives in harsh polar conditions aside of society for several months, she then trains to work at sea and embarks as a crew member and guide on board small ships around Svalbard and Northern Norway. Little by little, she builds her experience, becomes a professional polar expedition guide and embarks for further destinations such as Greenland, Northern Canada and Antarctica.

In 2020, while the covid crisis freezes the expedition cruise industry, Laura is forced to stay on land and decides to explore the area she lives in. She passes her diving levels including rebreather diving, and takes flying lessons. In February 2020, when the European Space Agency announced the recruitment of its new generation of astronauts, she applied with excitement and was selected for the first step of the recruitment process (cognitive and psychological tests).

In 2021, Laura is selected to be part of the expedition team on board Ponant’s brand-new polar exploration ship Le Commandant Charcot for its first year in operation. After sharing the ship’s inaugural trip to the North Pole in September 2021, she and her team lead challenging expeditions to the most remote areas of the world such as the Weddell and Ross seas or Northeast Greenland.

Today, Laura continues to explore and share her passion for the polar regions. With the development of the space industry, she still dreams that one day she could be a part of the next great human adventure.

Moderator:

Tania Gres

Tania Gres is a young aerospace system engineer working in Thales Alenia Space in Turin (Italy) on challenging space exploration missions to Venus and Low Earth Orbit. Born in Germany and raised in France, from a family of artists and engineers, today she fulfills her dreams of working in the European space industry. As an engineer by day, and as a SGAC volunteer at night. Within the association, she is one of the 2 current National Point of Contact for France. She was the SG[France]2021 event manager and is the leader of the DIVINAS long term project of the Diversity and Gender Equality Project Group. She was also organizing the first Model UN of SGAC in collaboration with the European Centre for Space Law, as well as part of the organization for the Space Generation Congress in Paris 2022. Constantly looking for new challenges and opportunities, she’s a very motivated, enthusiastic and quick learner who enjoys space related projects, especially working as a team.

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