On Wednesday, 23 November at 3.30 p.m. CET, the European Space Agency (ESA) unveiled the names and faces of the new European astronaut corps at a live media event broadcast from the Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris. Selected out of more than 22 500 applicants, CERN engineer Sławosz Uznański from Poland came the closest he’s ever been to his childhood dream as he is now one of the 11 members of the ESA 2022 astronaut class in the reserve pool. The class includes five career astronauts (from Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland and the UK), 11 reserve astronauts and one astronaut with a physical disability, who will be engaged in a feasibility project. This was the first call for new ESA astronaut applicants since 2008 and it is the first time that ESA has established a reserve pool. While the career astronauts will be employed by ESA in early 2023, the 11 reserve astronauts remain with their current employers and receive a consultancy contract. They will start training when a flight opportunity for them is identified. With the advent of US commercial rockets and capsules, there is a good chance that this might happen soon.
Reached over the phone while celebrating with his new teammates at the ESA event in Paris, Sławosz said he was happy with the selection result. “This is just the beginning!” was his first comment. Answering questions from Polish journalists, he mentioned the AMS cosmic ray detector, built at CERN and currently installed on the International Space Station. “An upgrade of the detector is foreseen; the mission will probably take place in 2026/27. In my opinion, I would be an ideal candidate for this mission, as I know how these detectors are built – this is definitely my area – and I know the CERN infrastructure very well.”
Sławosz, who holds a PhD in microelectronics from the University of Marseille, has been working at CERN for the past 11 years as a project engineer in the Converter Controls Electronics section of the Electrical Power Converters group (SY/EPC/CCE). He has designed and built thousands of power converter control systems used by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and throughout the accelerator complex at CERN.
“Sławosz’s most impressive achievement has been the design of a radiation-tolerant power converter controller for the LHC, which has had an exceptional reliability since it was installed – it’s a crucial part of the system, and was a really challenging technical design,” says his supervisor, Benjamin Todd. From January 2018 to January 2019, Sławosz worked as Engineer in Charge of the LHC, where he led the operations of the accelerator 24/7. Passionate about space since early childhood – he was born on 12 April, which is International Astronaut Day – he has worked on interdisciplinary projects for space applications, such as designing methodologies of radiation-hardened integrated circuits for high reliability (ESA, Thales, CNES), creating a state-of-the-art software platform for the design and simulation of integrated circuits and assessing component failure rates in harsh environments. A keen science communicator, in his time off he is “outside testing my limits on multi-day mountaineering expeditions in the Alps/Himalayas, travelling in remote places or sailing into the unknown”.
As the Agency enters a new decade of space exploration, there will certainly be multiple opportunities for European astronauts to travel to the International Space Station and beyond. Concluding the live announcement event, ESA Director-General Joseph Aeschbacher said:
“We need to keep our eyes on our aim of living and working on the Lunar Gateway, then the Moon and – who knows – maybe even one day the surface of Mars. This new group of recruits will help keep our astronaut corps at full strength, ready for an exciting future.”
We have no doubt that Sławosz will be part of that future.
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