For the first time in eleven years, the European Space Agency opened its gates to new astronautes’ applications. Radoslaw Ejsmont, a CRI long term fellow is taking the leap creating for us the opportunity to put some lights on his research within the CRI Research Collaboratory. The CRI allows its researchers to explore the boundaries of sciences and to walk into new territories.
The CRI is proud to be a fertile ground for talent to continue to grow and reach the stars both metaphorically and physically !
BEING A RESEARCHER AT CRI
What did you want to do when you were a boy?
I wanted to be a garbage truck driver, it seemed like a very cool thing to drive!
But, when I was in first grade, I got my first PC. When most kids played video games, I got into programming. The first class of highschool, we had an amazing biology teacher. As a result I finished by studying biology. I wanted to stay in an interdisciplinary approach at university. So, I studied maths, biology and chemistry and was still doing a lot of computer sciences on the side. I joined medical university, and halfway through med school, I learned I was accepted in my PhD program. I had to choose between medicine and the PhD. I decided science seemed to be more existing. Before 30, I always said I had 48h in a day.
How did you hear about the CRI?
Funny story ! I was finishing my post doc and a friend of mine found the ad on the Internet and told me I could be interested in it. And here I am. So I guess it was the right google keywords at the right time.
What is CRI to you?
Home. I really enjoy coming here. And with Covid I basically live here. The environment is inspiring, other researchers and fellow students are stimulating, and the students are great.
About that, I was not confident about teaching at first but teaching here is different and I really enjoy it.
What are your research about?
My team and I are trying to create synthetic biology tools to study and recreate gene regulatory networks in vivo, using Drosophila or fruit flies - which are easy to grow and complex enough organisms to be studied. To do so, we will combine previously known activation and repression domains of transcription factors with engineered DNA binding domains to create synthetic transcription factors capable of precise control of a target gene expression levels. We want to design those genes to do exactly what you want, and when you want. Basically, we want to establish a synthetic biology tool kit.
GOING TO THE STARS
So, how did it all start for you to want to go up there, in space?
It started with me wanting to be a pilot : I started playing with a flight simulator and I got really serious about it. I built a proper hardware cockpit in my flat!
One guy, an amazing researcher, heard me brag about my setup ( - which, for the record, was taking up quite some space in a student apartment). Anyway, he used to be a pilot and he asked me : “why not to do it in real life ?” Why not indeed!
So I passed my flight licence and started flying quite a lot. For me it was a whole new level of freedom - it was freedom in 3 dimensions!
So being able to fly on Earth inspired you to go to space?
Not initially. I took interest in space quite recently actually. I got inspired by the new space mouvement as private companies stepped in with the means to innovate really rapidly (such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, etc). We then saw some cool new tech appear such as the SpaceX reusable rockets. On top of that, we now have the means to follow and watch all of the experiments and explorations like watching a live feed from onboard a spacecraft as it goes up. It really struck my imagination and appeared reachable. I started to think that it would be nice to go up one day and even if I am a regular person, it might get cheap enough for me to go up there when I'm old.
How did it go from “I might go there someday” to “let’s apply to be an astronaut”?
Last year, at CRI, Didier Schmitt, the Space19+ Coordinator for Human and Robotic Exploration for ESA gave us a Masterclass. I realised the ESA was making the astronauts call every 10 years, so I broke the ice by asking him : “Guys, are you still on board for space exploration because your last recruitment plan was 11 years ago?” He told me it was going to happen again, and they were looking for a “researcher”. He encouraged me to apply and told me that “if you don’t apply, you’ll never know”
Optimistic question for you, are you not afraid to face the emptiness and coldness of space?
I don’t like risks, I like calculated risks. I like doing things that give you a thrill but you know what you are doing.
Do you consider yourself as an explorer?
I do like discovery, I do like exploring, I do like putting myself out of my comfort zone.
For me it’s mostly something that brings a lot of my passions together: flying, research and life sciences. Thinking about long term life in space for humans in space is exciting. It represents a lot of life sciences opportunities. For exemple learn how to cultivate our own food in space, vegetables for sure, but also meat. Synthetic biology could help us to make meat more suitable for space for example with a higher oxygen concentration!
Maybe one day I will figure out how to make fruit flies surviving on Mars!
Next steps for Radek's application
Interested in becoming an astronaut?
ESA welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics.
“ESA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to achieving diversity within the workforce and creating an inclusive working environment. For this purpose, we welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics. Applications from women are encouraged."
“The most selective step is whether or not you are going to apply,” Thomas Pasquet says. “There’s maybe one in a thousand people who are going to be picked up, but there is one in a million who will apply. So please, please, please – apply, apply, apply.””
Want to join our Research Team?
Applications are now open until the 30th of April!
Credits photo : ESA
Credit logo : Rocket by Made by Made & Research by Eucalyp from the Noun Project