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The European Space Agency (ESA) unveiled its new class of career astronauts on Wednesday, selecting France’s Sophie Adenot and four other candidates from a list of more than 22,500 candidates. Adenot, a helicopter pilot in the French army, becomes France’s second female astronaut after Claudie Haigneré. She spoke to TSTIME about reaching this historic milestone, what inspired her to become an astronaut and why she thinks space exploration is important.
Despite making history, 40-year-old Adenot is determined to get on with his job. “I’m here to be a scientist and to operate highly innovative technology on board the space station together with our European Space Agency partners. So the idea is to become an ambassador, yes of course, but not a star,” she said. James André from TSTIME.
“It all started as a little girl’s dream, sitting on her grandfather’s knees, looking at the sky and the stars. But I didn’t wake up one day thinking ‘I’m going to be an astronaut.’ [It happened] very progressive. I read a lot of biographies. The first was Marie Curie and I decided I wanted to go into science and have an impact on society through science, although that was a long way off. The other trigger for me was the biography of Claudie Haigneré (the first Frenchwoman in space). I was 14 years old when she started and it was a real trigger for me, I decided I wanted to go down this path,” explains Adenot.