European Space Agency on Wednesday The world’s first disabled astronaut. John McFall, whose right leg was amputated at age 19, is the first member of a new program that researches accommodations for disabled astronauts.
By calling for applications in March 2021, the agency was looking for people with disabilities who could pass rigorous physical and psychological testing but were limited by a lack of equipment alignment. The program will explore the changes and costs required to send disabled astronauts into space. ESA selected McFall from 257 participants and describes him as the world’s first “paraastronaut”. And next spring, he will enter a 12-month training program at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany.
“I’ve always had a great interest in science in general and space exploration has always been on my radar,” McFall, 41, said on Wednesday. “But being in a motorcycle accident when I was 19 years old, wanting to join the armed forces, being disabled was always a contraindication to doing that.”
He learned to run again after McFall’s accident and amputation and won a bronze medal in the 100m run at the 2008 Paralympic Games. In addition, he earned several medical degrees and was a Foundation Doctor of the British National Health Service from 2014 to 2016. McFall currently works as a trauma and orthopedic specialist in Southern England.
“When an astronaut with physical disability was advertised in early 2021,” McFall said, “I read about the person’s characteristics and what it entails, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a huge and interesting opportunity.’ And to help ESA answer the question they were asking. I thought I would be a very good candidate: ‘Can we take someone with a physical disability into space?’ And I felt compelled to apply.”
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, regardless of our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publication.