In a first, the European Space Agency has announced that the first astronaut, or astronauts, with a physical disability, could be announced as soon as Wednesday.
People with physical disabilities have previously been excluded from one of the most exclusive and demanding jobs on Earth — and beyond — due to strict selection requirements.
Guillaume Weerts, the ESA’s head of space medicine, told AFP that the agency’s “parastronaut project” required “a complete change in philosophy” about the concept of medical aptitude, which originally came from the military and the selection of fighter pilots.
The ESA further said that the potential candidates could include people who have deficiencies in their lower limbs, whether from amputation or congenital defects.
People with a height of up to 1.3 metres (4.3 feet) tall or those with different leg lengths were also eligible to apply.
The educational and psychological requirements for the candidates remained the same as for any other astronaut.
However, applications closed in June 2021.
The ESA is expected to name between four to six new European astronauts — without disabilities — during its ministerial council in Paris on Wednesday.
While Weerts said the parastronaut project runs somewhat separately, “there is a real possibility that as part of the announcement one or more people with disabilities” will also be presented.
(with agency inputs)