World's first disabled astronaut named by European Space Agency

The announcement came as ESA appointed a new set of astronauts for the first time since 2009 after whittling down 22,500 valid applications.

European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts pictured inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft onboard the SpaceX Shannon recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Tampa, Florida, US, May 6, 2022 (photo credit: NASA/AUBREY GEMIGNANI/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts pictured inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft onboard the SpaceX Shannon recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Tampa, Florida, US, May 6, 2022
(photo credit: NASA/AUBREY GEMIGNANI/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

The European Space Agency on Wednesday named the first ever "parastronaut" in a major step towards allowing people with physical disabilities to work and live in space.

The 22-nation agency said it had appointed British Paralympic sprinter John McFall to take part in a feasibility study during astronaut training to assess the conditions needed for people with disabilities to take part in future missions.

European Space Agency appoints new set of astronauts

The announcement came as ESA appointed a new set of astronauts for the first time since 2009 after whittling down 22,500 valid applications.

ESA posted openings last year for people fully capable of passing its usual stringent psychological, cognitive and other tests who are only prevented from becoming astronauts due to the constraints of existing hardware in light of their disability.

It received 257 applications for the role of an astronaut with a disability.

 OFEK 16, a new Israeli spy satellite, is shot into space from a site in central Israel, 2020. (credit: Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Office/Handout via Reuters) OFEK 16, a new Israeli spy satellite, is shot into space from a site in central Israel, 2020. (credit: Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Office/Handout via Reuters)

McFall will work with ESA engineers to understand what changes in hardware are needed to open professional spaceflight to a wider group of qualified candidates, the agency said.