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World's First Disabled Astronaut

One small step for man, one giant leap for inclusivity: John McFall has been unveiled as the world’s first disabled astronaut.

John McFall becomes world's first disabled astronaut
John McFall | Credit: ESA

McFall joins 16 men and women chosen from over 22,500 applicants for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) first class of astronauts in 13 years. The ESA said it wanted to widen the definition of what it means to have "the right stuff" to go into space.

Although it doesn’t automatically guarantee McFall, 41, a spot on a rocket launchpad, he will now work on a feasibility study investigating what it would take to put a para-astronaut into orbit.

His right leg was amputated after a motorcycle crash when he was 19. He became a professional athlete and represented Team GB at the Paralympics.

He told the BBC he had not previously considered becoming an astronaut but felt compelled to apply when he saw the opportunity. "When ESA announced that they were looking for candidates with a physical disability to run this astronaut feasibility project, I looked at the person specification and it just kind of jumped out to me," he said.

"I felt so inspired by it. I felt compelled to apply."

“I can bring lots of things to the feasibility study but in particular I can bring inspiration - inspiration that science is for everyone, and inspiration that potentially space is for everyone.”


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