The presentation of the astronauts was made by Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA, on Wednesday in Paris during the last day of the ESA Council at Ministerial Level.
ESA contracts will be awarded to six primary corps astronauts and 11 reserve astronauts.
Primary corps astronauts are practically guaranteed flights to the International Space Station (ISS) and may be able to participate in one of NASA’s lunar missions carried out with ESA.
The substitutes can join them at any time and begin intensive training if ESA expands its manned programmes, particularly the use of the ISS.
"The selection of a Pole to this exclusive group is a massive success," the Polish Space Agency (POLSA) said in a statement.
Uznański had to beat over 22,000 candidates from all over Europe in the ESA preliminaries, which lasted a year-and-a-half.
Candidates underwent various tests of knowledge regarding space and space technologies, intelligence and computational prowess, the ability to solve complex, unusual problems under time pressure, mental toughness and keeping a cool head under stress. They were subjected to detailed medical examinations and underwent a series of interviews.
An additional advantage for Uznański was the experience he gained at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, where he works as an operator of the Large Hadron Collider LHC. This is a device as complex and technologically advanced as the Space Station.
Uznański is also involved in designing radiation-resistant electronics for use in space. A Ph.D. in electronics and the ability to conduct scientific research are his other assets useful on the Space Station. Hiking in the Himalayas, his hobby, is the best way to train his stress resistance and build endurance in harsh conditions.
"This is certainly one of the most important days of my life, but also a special moment for Polish science and Polish participation in space exploration – a way of appreciating our achievements and highlighting our potential," Uznański said.
He added: "As a Pole, I am proud that I will represent our country in the implementation of the joint European space program. Our participation is already significant. I am sure that it will be substantially greater."
Uznański grew up in Łódź, central Poland, where he graduated with honours from the Technical University of Łódź in 2008. That same year, he received an M.Sc. from Université de Nantes in France and Diplôme d’Ingénieur from Polytech’Nantes. In 2011, he defended his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Aix-Marseille with honors.
He is the author of a book on radiation effects in electronic circuits and has co-authored more than 50 papers in journals and scientific conferences. His interests are closely related to the space industry. He has lectured on space system design at international engineering schools and organized workshops between CERN and NASA and for the private sector.
He has been a reviewer of many commercial satellite projects, such as the ICEYE satellites, and projects for the Polish space sector, such as PW-SAT2, HyperSat and EagleEye.
Grzegorz Wrochna, President of the Polish Space Agency, said: "This is a huge success for our astronaut, but also a great distinction for Poland."
He added: "Our development and progress in civilization that has taken place in recent decades has been noticed and appreciated by European partners. During ESA meetings, I heard many warm words about our companies and scientists, who play an increasingly important role in ESA programmes. I hope that the selection of a Pole to the astronaut reserve will also be a catalyst for further development of the space sector in Poland, as a signal that the country’s development is carried out through investments in cutting-edge technologies – including space technologies."
The ESA Council at Ministerial Level was held in Paris on November 22 and 23. It was attended by representatives from ESA member states as well as associated and cooperating countries. The meeting discussed upcoming ESA projects, budgetary issues and efforts to ensure that Europe strengthens its position in space exploration.