FRANCE. Paris: In a significant step toward enabling people with physical disabilities to work and live in space, the European Space Agency (ESA) on Wednesday named the first-ever “parastronaut.”
The 22-nation organization announced that it had selected British Paralympic sprinter John McFall to participate in a feasibility study while astronaut candidates trained to determine the prerequisites for persons with impairments to participate in upcoming missions.
After narrowing down 22,500 eligible applications, the ESA appointed a new group of astronauts for the first time since 2009 at the time of the announcement.
The ESA published job openings for candidates who are fully capable of passing the agency’s regular demanding psychological, cognitive, and other tests but are prohibited from becoming astronauts due to the limitations of the available hardware in light of their disability last year.
257 people applied for the position of an astronaut with a disability.
According to the organization, McFall will collaborate with ESA engineers to determine hardware modifications to make professional spaceflight more accessible to more qualified people.
Additionally, three men from Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland—Pablo Alvarez Fernández, Raphael Liégeois, and Marco Alain Sieber will join the ESA astronaut corps.
ESA also revealed eleven reserve astronauts; they won’t be joining the crew yet, but they could be needed if one of the chosen applicants withdraws.
The ESA also revealed a budget increase of 17%, corresponding to the previous budget, although the primary target was an upgrade of 18%.
ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher announced that the organization would receive $17.5 billion from its 22 member states.
The capital is intended to support missions to Mars and the Moon primarily. In addition, the ESA will continue contributing to the ISS through 2030.