Page last updated at 23:04 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 00:04 UK

Meet Europe's new astronauts

The European Space Agency has accepted six new recruits into its astronaut corps.

The astronauts will begin their basic education in September for a period of 18 months. They will then get assigned to a mission for more specific training.

But it will be a minimum of 3.5 years before they can get into orbit.

Samantha Cristoforetti

Samantha Cristoforetti was born in Milan, Italy, in 1977.

She studied at the Technische Universität Munich, Germany, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace in Toulouse, France, and the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technologies in Moscow, Russia.

She holds a master's degree in engineering, as well as a master's degree in aeronautical sciences from the University of Naples Federico II in Italy.

Lt Cristoforetti is a fighter pilot with the Italian Air Force. In her leisure time, she enjoys mountaineering, scuba diving and caving.

Alexander Gerst

Alexander Gerst was born in Künzelsau, Germany, in 1977.

He studied at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, where he received a master's degree in physics.

He also studied Earth Science at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, where he was awarded a Master of Science.

He has been working as a researcher since 2005. In his spare time, he enjoys mountaineering, diving, climbing and skydiving.

Andreas Mogensen

Andreas Mogensen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1976.

He received a master's degree in engineering from Imperial College, London, and a doctorate in engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, in the United States.

He has been working as an attitude & orbit control system and guidance, navigation & control engineer for HE Space Operations.

His pastimes include rugby, mountaineering and diving.

Luca Parmitano

Luca Parmitano is the second Italian in the new batch of astronauts.

He was born in Paterno, Italy, in 1976.

He holds a diploma in aeronautical sciences from the Italian Air Force Academy.

He was trained as a Full Experimental Test Pilot at EPNER, the French test pilot school in Istres.

Capt Parmitano, a pilot with the Italian Air Force, is an active scuba diver and enjoys climbing and paragliding.

Timothy Peake

Timothy Peake was born in Chichester, UK, in 1972.

He completed a degree in flight dynamics and qualified as a Full Experimental Test Pilot at the UK's Empire Test Pilots' School.

He has flown for many years with the Army Air Corps, and is currently working with the Anglo-Italian helicopter company AgustaWestland.

He has more than 3,000 hours in the cockpit. He flies primarily Apache helicopters but has experience on a wide range of aircraft.

He currently lives in Salisbury. He is an avid cross country runner and includes climbing and caving among his leisure activities.

Thomas Pesquet

Thomas Pesquet was born in Rouen, France, in 1978.

He received a master's degree from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace in Toulouse, France.

He worked at the French space agency, CNES, as a research engineer, and then went on to become a pilot for Air France where he is currently flying Airbus A320s.

He enjoys jogging, swimming, squash and judo and has experience in diving and paragliding.

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