“For me, it was always a child’s dream,” Svoboda told Czech Television. Photo credit: Armáda České republiky.

Paris/Prague, Nov 24 (CTK) – Czech military pilot Ales Svoboda became a member of the reserve of the new team of astronauts announced by the European Space Agency (ESA), selected out of almost 22,600 people, the ESA announced in Paris yesterday.

Svoboda was the only successful candidate out of some 200 Czechs who had applied for the project. He studied at the University of Defense in Brno and joined the Czech army in 2005. Three years later, he became a pilot. He works at the military base in Caslav, Central Bohemia.

The main team of the selected astronauts consists of two women and three men. Another 11 are in the reserve team. The training will start next year. Members of the reserve team will continue with their current jobs and will be at disposal as substitutes.

Czech Transport Minister Martin Kupka (ODS) wrote on Twitter that the ESA’s decision was a major success for Czech space activities, proving the importance of the country’s active role in the ESA and other international scientific organisations.

“For me, it was always a child’s dream,” Svoboda told Czech Television. “As a child, I used to go to the planetarium in Brno, always taking interest in space, aviation and space flights. For me, it is a logical continuation of what I do now.” 

Czech general staff spokesperson Vlastimila Cyprisova said Svoboda had passed special military courses in Sweden, Spain and the USA.

In 2019, he took part in air policing in the Baltics as the pilot of a Czech Gripen fighter.

The commander of the Czech air force, Petr Cepelka, also expressed respect and acknowledgment to Svoboda.

“This is a success not only for our military, but for the entire Czech Republic,” Cepelka told CTK. “His result has shown that we have excellently trained and prepared pilots,” he added.

The Czech military also congratulated Svoboda’s success. “From a Gripen up to a space plane. Our pilot Ales Svoboda became a reserve astronaut today. He is among the TOP 17 who may see the space one day,” the military said in a statement.

In the late 1970s, the former Czechoslovakia became the third country in the world after the USSR and the USA to have an astronaut. In March 1978, military pilot Vladimir Remek joined the crew of the Soyuz 28 space mission along with Soviet astronaut Alexei Gubarov.

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