British athlete John McFall, 41, will be part of a pilot project to evaluate the possibility of including people with disabilities in future space missions.
For the first time, a person with a disability will take part in astronaut training.
Briton John McFall, 41, joined 16 men and women selected for the first new class created by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 13 years.
McFall had his right leg amputated after a motorcycle accident at the age of 19. He became a professional athlete and represented Team Great Britain at the Paralympics.
The ESA said it was broadening its definition of the “right characteristics” of candidates who want to go into space.
The choice doesn’t necessarily mean McFall will go into space. It is a pilot project to evaluate how “parastronauts” can be included in future space missions.
McFall, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Paralympics in the 200m T42 class, said he was proud to have been given the opportunity on “such a brave and daring project”.
He told the BBC he had never thought of becoming an astronaut but felt compelled to apply when he heard about the opportunity.
“When the ESA announced that they were looking for physically challenged candidates for this project, I looked at the requirements and the idea caught my attention. I felt very inspired.”
ESA will work with NASA, the US space agency, on the pilot project. Agencies will first assess the necessary adaptations to ensure the safety of the crew, considering the particular needs of people with physical disabilities. It will also be studied what changes would be needed in spacecraft.
“It’s very important to involve all people who are passionate about space,” said David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Space Exploration.
“We’re taking a first step by opening this call to people who have certain types of physical disabilities, and we really look forward to taking them on a mission to the International Space Station,” he told BBC News.
The number of women who applied increased significantly compared to the last recruitment, in 2009. According to the director general of the ESA, Josef Aschbacher, this was reflected in the final selection, since almost 50% of the members of the new class are women.
The agency received a total of 22,500 applications and selected 17 people, all from European countries. Five of them are career astronauts and 11 were designated as reserves – to be called only in case of opening of a vacancy in the class or if their country of origin wants to finance their training separately.
– This text was published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-63739135