Astronauts always insist that they are not extraordinary. But they are.
They’ve taken risks we can barely comprehend, looked upon our beautiful planet as gods, and transformed the alien environment of microgravity into just one more day at the office.
They are the explorers of our time. Once it was Shackleton in Antarctica or Hillary atop Everest who inspired wonder. From now on, it is the men and women of space who are discovering new frontiers.
The rest of us, let’s face it, who are unlikely to live up to it, can still enjoy the ride. They are our agent, and through them we are bewitched.
The new European Space Agency (ESA) the intake has broader appeal.
Half are women, including two from the UK.
And there is also the world’s first “para-astronaut”British orthopedic surgeon John McFall.
He has already proven himself on the track, winning the bronze medal in the 100m at the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
Now it will be part of a program to test the feasibility of people with disabilities working in space.
It’s been long overdue.
As Tim Peake told me, all astronauts are crippled to some degree by microgravity and being amputated may not be the problem it was thought to be.
Major Tim’s mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was considered a huge success.
It wasn’t just the 34 different experiments he was involved in. That was also what it meant in Britain.
More than 33 million people have engaged in its orbital adventure, more than a fifth of school children have taken part in mission-related educational activities and public appreciation of the importance of space to the UK economy jumped up.
And that was just a six-month stint on the ISS.
New astronauts can dream of going further – to the moon and beyond.
Some people argue that it is cheaper and safer to send robots, which are increasingly capable. Just watch the rovers walk on mars.
But they do not yet correspond to the eye and the curiosity of a human.
This is why there is a strong case for sending humans to explore new worlds.
ESA needs to determine why people from ethnic minorities do not pass the selection process. All astronauts are, again, white.
Extraterrestrial exploration is for the good of humanity. And it is good that humanity is correctly represented.