World's first disabled astronaut (para-astronaut) to visit Space
New Delhi: A special meeting held in Paris of the European Space Agency or ESA on November 23, 2022, named the first ever "para-astronaut", allowing people with physical disabilities to work and live in Space.
John McFall, British Paralympic sprinter, is now a part of a new generation of 17 recruits picked for astronaut training. He will take part in a feasibility study designed to allow ESA to assess the conditions needed for people with disabilities to take part in future missions.
"It's been quite a whirlwind experience, given that as an amputee, I'd never thought that being an astronaut was a possibility, so excitement was a huge emotion," McFall said in an interview posted on ESA's website.
Disability equality charity scope described his selection as "a major leap forward".
"Better representation of disabled people in influential roles will help improve attitudes and break down the barriers that many disabled people face today," the charity's Head of Communications, Alison Kerry, said.
Following a motorcycle accident leading to his right leg being amputated at 19, McFall went on to win the 100-metre Bronze Medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008.
The 31-year-old doctor will help ESA engineers design changes in hardware needed to open professional spaceflight to a broader group of qualified candidates, the agency said.
"I think the message I would give to future generations is that science is for everyone, and space travel hopefully can be for everyone," McFall said.
The selected astronauts will complete 12-month basic training when they are ready to enter the next Space Station training phase. Once assigned to a mission, their activity will be tailored to specific mission tasks.
The ESA is Europe's gateway to Space. It comprises 22 nations. ESA's director of Human and Robotic Exploration, David Parker, added "This is an extraordinary time for human spaceflight and Europe. After the successful launch of Artemis I with ESA's European Service Module powering Orion to the Moon, we are on the forefront of human space exploration. We are delighted to have this group of extremely talented people, to continue European science and operations on the International Space Station and beyond."
Frank De Winne, head of the European Astronaut Centre and ESA's International Space Station programme Manager, said: "We are excited to welcome the new ESA astronaut class of 2022, and I am looking forward to seeing all these ambitious young career astronaut candidates joining us for their first training at ESA's European Astronaut Centre in spring 2023, going forward to explore and shape space exploration."