Part of the European Space Agency
(ESA). The Corps was founded on 25 March 1998, in response to a growing need for European astronauts
to take part in missions to the International Space Station
. It proved to be a success, and in June 2000 France
closed their national Corps (they were the only two European nations with their own national astronaut programmes). Since then, the European Astronaut Corps has become the central team for European participation in manned spaceflight.
The Corps consists (in theory) of 16 astronauts: four each from France, Germany and Italy, with the remaining four coming from other European Space Agency member states.
Currently, the following are members of the Corps:
Being a member of the European Astronaut Corps does not prevent an astronaut from also taking part in missions for their own national space agency.
Although the astronauts spend a lot of their time in Russia or America just before an actual launch, they do most of their training at the European Astronaut Centre (confusingly, also EAC) in Cologne, Germany. The Centre also carries out the selection process, medical care and support, and public relations duties for the astronauts.