European Space Agency Names First Disabled Astronaut – TBEN – 11/23/2022


The European Space Agency (ESA) unveiled its newest recruits on Wednesday, with two women and three men and the world’s first “parastronaut” making up the new class.

According to the ESA, no major Western agency has ever sent a ‘parastronaut’ to space.

The new class includes “astronauts with physical disabilities” who will “start 12-month basic training at ESA’s European Astronaut Center in spring 2023,” the agency said.

ESA said it had appointed British Paralympic sprinter John McFall to participate in a feasibility study during astronaut training.

“It was quite a whirlwind experience considering that as an amputee I never thought being an astronaut was a possibility, so excitement was a huge emotion,” McFall said in an interview on the ESA website.

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While his recruitment is a first, McFall still has a long way to go to be part of a space mission. He has been selected to assess the conditions needed for people with disabilities to participate in future missions, the 22-nation agency said.

McFall has worked as a trauma and orthopedic specialist in the South of England. His leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident.

He then represented Great Britain as a Paralympic sprinter at the 2008 event in Beijing, which involved athletes with a range of physical disabilities.

McFall represented the UK as a Paralympic sprinter.Image: ANDREW YATES/TBEN

New class of astronauts

Five career astronauts were selected from more than 22,000 applicants. More women than ever have applied to be part of the program.

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The ESA chose two women from the applicants: the French Sophie Adenot and the British Rosemary Coogan. Adenot is a 40-year-old aerial helicopter test pilot with around 3,000 hours of flying experience, while Coogan, 31, has a PhD in astronomy from the University of Sussex.

The Spaniard Pablo Alvarez Fernandez, the Belgian Raphael Liegeois and the Swiss Marco Sieber were also selected for the new class.

It was ESA’s first recruitment drive in more than a decade, which also aimed to bring diversity to space travel.

Budget increase

The ESA also announced a significant budget increase of 17% compared to the previous budget, although the original target was an increase of 18%.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said the agency would receive a total of €16.9 billion ($17.5 billion) from its 22 member states.

The German government said it would contribute €4 billion to ESA’s budget.

The budget is set to mainly cover programs to explore the Moon and Mars.

The ESA will also continue to participate in the International Space Station (ISS) until 2030.

ESA discusses future missions to the moon

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fb, jsi/dj (TBEN, TBEN, Reuters)


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