ESA recruiting first astronaut with disabilities

6 June 2021

The European Space Agency launched a recruitment drive on March 31 to employ four to six career astronauts, who will be permanent ESA staff, and about 20 reserve astronauts for possible shorter, one-off missions to destinations like the International Space Station.
This is the first time the ESA has recruited astronauts in a decade, and the process will be open for eight weeks.
Notably, the agency is aiming to introduce its first astronaut with physical disabilities – indeed, the first in human history, according to ESA Director General Jan Wörner – to diversify its astronaut pool. The agency will open that opportunity for one or more applicants, he stressed.
“We believe that exploration is the matter of a collective effort, we need to extend the pool of talent we can rely on in order to continue progressing in our endeavor,” declared an ESA statement.
“Visible representation is always important and, therefore, we’ve been asking ourselves, what are the barriers preventing us from flying a physically disabled astronaut to the ISS,” Wörner told the media.
This a part of the “Para-astronaut feasibility project” the agency has started, through which the ESA plans to adapt space hardware to enable those “otherwise excellently qualified professionals” to serve as new crew members on a safe, useful space mission, the agency says in its statement.
The applicants should be qualified to be an astronaut psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally.
The agency said that it has communicated with the International Paralympic Committee to determine what kinds of physical disabilities can satisfy the requirements of space missions.
According to the agency, it will accept applicants with leg amputations, and it hopes to expand the opportunities to other categories of physically challenged people. After the candidates with disabilities are recruited, the agency will determine what physical accommodations they may need in order to take part in space missions.

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