The European Space Agency has chosen 17 new astronaut candidates from more than 22,500 applicants for its 2022 class of entrants – including the first astronaut with a disability.

Former Paralympian John McFall was selected to take part in the Parastronaut Feasibility Project, to develop options for the inclusion of astronauts with physical disabilities in human spaceflight and possible future missions.

A motorcycle accident resulted in the amputation of McFall’s right leg at the age of 19, but he has gone on to win the Paralympic Bronze Medal 100m at the Beijing Paralympic Games 2008.

UK contingent at the ESA

He is part of a three-strong UK contingent alongside Rosemary Coogan, who was selected by ESA as the UK’s third ever astronaut after Tim Peake and Helen Sharman, and Meganne Christian, who will become a member of the ESA Astronaut Reserve.

For the first time, ESA has established a reserve pool of astronauts. This reserve list is composed of astronaut candidates who were successful throughout the entire selection process but cannot be recruited at this point in time.

Astronauts in the reserve remain with their current employers and will receive a consultancy contract and basic support. They will start basic training in case a flight opportunity has been identified.

Class of 2022

Frank De Winne, head of the European Astronaut Centre and ESA’s International Space Station programme Manager said: “We are excited to welcome the new ESA astronaut class of 2022 and I am looking forward to see all these ambitious young career astronaut candidates joining us for their first training at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in spring 2023, going forward to explore and shape space exploration.”

After completion of the 12-month basic training, the new astronauts will be ready to enter the next Space Station training phase and, once assigned to a mission, their training will be tailored to specific mission tasks.
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