British Paralympian to enter European Space Agency's training corps

John McFall to work with designers and engineers to help him become the first disabled person in space

John McFall, from the United Kingdom. Photo: ESA
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British Paralympic sprinter John McFall will join the European Space Agency's training corps after he was chosen to become the world's first disabled astronaut.

The ESA chose McFall to work with designers and engineers on a programme that will include adapting space transport and facilities to suit his needs.

The latest ESA recruiting drive sought out people with physical disabilities in an effort to determine what adaptations would be necessary to accommodate them on space stations.

McFall, 41, from Frimley in Surrey, competed for Britain at the Paralympic Games. He lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident when he was 19.

He joins a roster of would-be space explorers in the class of 2022, which includes British astronomer Rosemary Coogan.

More than 22,500 people applied to join the programme, with the largest number coming from France (7,087), followed by Germany (3,695) and the UK (2,000).

Following a comprehensive screening process, 1,361 people were invited to phase two of ESA’s astronaut selection, which was narrowed down to a little more than 400 applicants during phase three.

During ESA’s last call for astronauts in 2008, the number of applicants who provided a medical certificate and finalised their online application form was 8,413.

Maj Tim Peake was among those selected that year — becoming the first British astronaut to be part of the ESA corps.

Updated: November 23, 2022, 4:17 PM
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