A British Paralympian could soon become the first disabled person in space.
John McFall, who won a bronze medal in the 100m sprint at the 2008 Beijing Games, was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to participate in its astronaut training program.
The 41-year-old astronaut during the training said the program was “an inspiring and exciting opportunity” and praised ESA for opening up the search for a disabled candidate.
When asked what prompted him to apply, Mr McFall said he “felt obligated to try to help ESA answer the question ‘can we force a person with a physical disability to do meaningful work in space?’
Mr Mcfall, a Surrey man who lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident aged 19, has been selected from more than 22,500 applicants and will be joined by British astronomer Rosemary Coogan. She is one of six professional astronauts to join the ESA staff as permanent staff members.
Meanwhile, Meganne Christian, who was born in the UK and studied in Australia, will become a member of ESA’s astronaut reserve.
The three were photographed together at the ESA Class of 2022 announcement ceremony at the Grand Palais Ephemere in Paris.
Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK space agency, said: “This is an important day for the UK space agency, our space sector and the country at large.
“With our investment in the European Space Agency, the UK is taking a leading role in space exploration and is working with international partners to leverage a unique space vantage point for the benefit of life on Earth.”
“Space has an amazing power to inspire and I’m sure Rosemary, John and Meganne will become heroes to many young people and inspire them to shoot for the stars.
“It’s also important to remember that behind every astronaut is a dedicated team of people, including in the UK, working behind the scenes to achieve the incredible.”
The largest number of candidates for this year’s program came from France (7,087), followed by Germany (3,695) and Great Britain (2,000).
After a comprehensive selection phase, 1,361 people were invited to ESA’s second phase of selection for astronauts, which was narrowed down to just over 400 candidates in phase three.
During ESA’s last call for astronauts in 2008, the number of applicants who provided a medical certificate and finalized the online application form was 8,413.
Tim Peake was one of those selected, becoming the first British astronaut to be part of the ESA corps.