International Space Station

Two women from the Rhineland are astronaut candidates

Die Gewinnerinnen des Wettbewerbs "Die Astronautin": Insa Thiele-Eich (l) und Nicola Baumann. Eine der beiden Frauen soll spätestens im Jahr 2020 die erste Deutsche im All werden.

Winners of the competition “The Astronauts” looking happy in Berlin: Insa Thiele-Eich (left) and Nicola Baumann (right).

Berlin / Bonn. Exciting news came to a meteorologist from Bonn and a Euro-fighter pilot from Cologne - they both got word that they had been selected for an astronaut training program. Crowdfunding is being used to finance initial training.

Two women from the Rhineland are reaching for the stars: Bonn meteorologist Insa Thiele-Eich and Cologne Euro-fighter pilot Nicola Baumann are both finalists in the private initiative “The Astronauts”.  In German, it is written with an “in” at the end (Astronautin) which indicates female astronauts.  Both women will now enter a training program for a mission in space - one of them is supposed to be sent on a sponsored mission to the International Space Station (ISS) before the year 2020.

“For me, this is fulfillment of a childhood dream” said 32-year-old Baumann.  Thiele-Eich has also been fascinated by space since childhood, as her father Gerhard Thiele recalls.  “When she was around 12 or 13-years-old, she was speaking to a boy in English and she said: You’re speaking to the first woman on Mars.”  The thought of going to space was always on her mind.  Now it could actually come true.  Her father, Gerhard Thiele is also an astronaut and took part in the “Shuttle Topography Mission” in February of 2000, in which 80 percent of the land on earth was mapped.  He is currently in Xi’an, China preparing for “Space Day” at the Northwestern Polytechnical University.  Reacting to the news, he said, “Of course, I am very happy.”  Until now, eleven male astronauts from Germany have been sent to space, but never a woman.  

Because the 33-year-old Thiele-Eich has grown up in a family where space was always present, she knows what’s in store in terms of preparations, says her father.  He adds that it is important to have understanding and support from family.  

When she thinks about the exhilarating training program, parabolic flights are the first thing that come to mind for Thiele-Eich.  She has already experienced the feeling of weightlessness in such a flight.  “I’m excited to do many more parabolic flights,” she said.  If she would make it into space, she would want to do further work on her research in weather and weather forecasting.  

Jury member and former astronaut Ulrich Walter said it is common for two astronauts to be  trained for a mission in case a replacement is needed.  400 women vied for the chance to become a candidate.  The initiative was started by Claudia Kessler, who specializes in the space industry and wanted to strengthen women’s role in technical careers.  Airbus industry and the German Aerospace Center are amongst those supporting the project.  Kessler’s initiative hopes to raise 50,000 euros through crowdfunding by the end of April to finance the first round of training. Until Wednesday, 27,000 euros had already been collected. For the complete mission costing around 50 million euro, sponsors still need to be found.