ESA Will Hire First Physically Disabled Astronaut Because Space Is for Everyone

ESA believes it will become the first agency to send a physically disabled astronaut into space through new inclusive program 1 photo
Photo: ESA
ESA (European Space Agency) doesn’t hire new talent as often as aspiring astronauts would like, but at the very least it earns extra points for thinking outside the box. The latest round of applications for a new batch of ESA astronauts has closed, and the Agency hopes to become the first ever to hire a physically disabled astronaut.
A “parastronaut,” as ESA says. ESA announced the plans in February this year, highlighting the need to expand the pool of talent so that it becomes more inclusive, but without compromise to safety. Only certain disabilities qualify in this first round of selection, like lower limb deficiency, leg length difference and a short stature, all three of which would have before disqualified an otherwise qualified future astronaut.

“ESA is looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut,” the agency stated at the time.

Speaking to Reuters, ESA head Josef Aschbacher says that applications have closed and the number of candidates far exceeds those of previous years. In short, Aschbacher hopes future parastronauts are among the 22,000 applicants, and that ESA will become the first space agency to show that “space is everyone.”

Aschbacher also speaks of the need for ESA to catch up with NASA and privately-funded agencies like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX in terms of launches and missions. In July this year, Bezos will become the first man to send himself to space on his own rocket, so competition in this space is fierce. ESA is clearly determined to compensate through inclusion for what the U.S. has in terms of in financial resources.

ESA is putting its money where its mouth is, too, pledging €1 million ($1.2 million) to the initiative to launch the first parastronaut. However, allowing applications is just the first step in the process: ESA notes that hiring a physically disabled astronaut doesn’t mean that he or she will go to space. This process will take time, but at least the door is open.
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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