A young scientist who is currently attending a space simulation facility at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano spoke of his dream to become the first Greek astronaut.
Avgoustos Pantazidis takes great pride from the fact that he is among aspiring astronauts from around the globe to work at the facility which was created and sponsored by NASA and is considered as being among the best space simulation facilities in the world.
The young Greek says his aspiration for space travel began in 2015, when the country was in the midst of the economic crisis.
“Most in the country, and especially my peers, were disappointed and in general there was a pessimism about it all. I wanted to start fighting for something different. It was a physical reaction of my body to this whole situation,“ he says in an interview with the Athens Macedonia News Agency.
This reaction prompted him to want to prove “first to myself and then to everyone else, that in crisis-hit Greece you can still accomplish important things and achieve every goal. Even in space.“
An additional major stimulus was his post-graduate thesis at the Technical University of Crete, which focused on finding identical geological regions of Mars in Greece and in Santorini in particular.
The big reward for his efforts came in 2019 when he was selected together with five other candidates by the U.S. company Advancing Exploration (AdvancingX) to be trained as an astronaut. Those who succeed in completing the four-year training course will fly in orbit in 2023.
“These flights are the first test flights in space, they are short-lived and you experience a sense of zero gravity for about 40-45 minutes,” Pandazidis said, adding that “the next step after this flight is the International Space Station.” AdvancingX is also aiming to reach the Moon and Mars in the coming decades.
“Obviously in the future, I want to be selected by the European Space Agency of which Greece is a member, and fulfill my dream of become the first Greek astronaut” Pantazidis says.
He admits that the biggest obstacle to his dream is financial. As he points out, he is not funded by anyone at this time.
Pantazidis is not giving up and he recently launched a crowdfunding campaign, “so I can cover the necessary expenses for airline tickets to and from the United States for the coming years, as well as the costs of shipping and training within and outside Greece.“