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ESA wants to open space travel to astronauts with physical disabilities

Astronaut selection parastronaut graphics
Photo: ESA

The future is looking up for people with disabilities — way up into outer space.  The European Space Agency (ESA) wants to make space accessible for all people as it begins recruiting for its new astronaut class in 2021.

According to a statement released by the ESA, it is looking for “individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware.”

The ESA is committing to invest in hardware adaptations as part of its parastronaut feasibility project.  The agency hopes this will encourage people with functional limitations to also apply for other ESA and space jobs.

The feasibility project has a very narrow scope at the moment.  Applicants must still meet all the standard qualifications for an ESA astronaut, but the project is expanding recruiting to persons with certain lower limb or leg issues as well as people under 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) tall.

The last time the ESA recruited new astronauts was in 2008.  The European Astronaut Corps currently has seven active members, and plans to add four to six new astronauts with this recruitment campaign.

The application process starts on March 31 for nationals of ESA member states and associated member states.  Potential candidates can find out more through ESA’s astronaut selection site.

“There are many unknowns ahead of us,” ESA said.  “The only promise we can make today is one of a serious, dedicated and honest attempt to clear the path to space for an astronaut with disability.”

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