back to article European Space Agency open to hiring astronauts with a physical disability

The European Space Agency is about to advertise for astronauts for the first time since 2008 and is open to candidates with a physical disability under a new “Parastronaut feasibility project”. The Agency envisions a Parastronaut travelling to the International Space Station. Any such mission should be “as safe, and as useful …

  1. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Makes sense

    This makes sense, the lack of gravity makes some disabled folk less disabled. The leg thing is you have to be able to push off from walls with your legs. So no paraplegics will be considered. I expect those assisted robot walking frames might help but HEAVY for boosting into orbit. Tech may develop of course. So never say never.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Makes sense

      And more than that it's mostly the human environment that disables people here on terra firma.

      Given appropriate design many people you would consider disabled aren't.

      Imagine a world with door frames at 4' height. People standing would be disabled by the architecture, those in chairs wouldn't...

      On the other hand I could be perfect astronaut fodder - I am physically incapable of motion sickness of any sort - which would include space sickness (my inner ear has been basically destroyed, so I have literally no sense of balance, and no sense of which way is up).

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Makes sense

        Down voted by idiots.

        Take a simple thing, a step. Why? Why are no at buildings all equipped with ramp entrances?

        Train stations with no lifts.

        Shops so rammed hat a wheel chair can't turn.

        Toilets so small a wheel chair can't fit in.

        Many things affecting wheel chair users also affect parents with prams and push hairs as well.

        Let's not even start on badly designed packaging.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Makes sense

          Historical buildings I give a pass to... but the greater frustration for me personally is accessible facilities used as store rooms. The number of places where I've just pulled a giant bin out and deliberately left it in the middle of the corridor (preferably just at the top of some steps) is much larger than it should be...

          The other is the number of places where they tie up the red cord.

  2. Ordinary Donkey

    What about stomas?

    The case has been made many times that people who already shit through mechanical devices are perfect for space exploration.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about stomas?

      Not all stomas are for faeces and your language is offensive imo.

  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    When you look at the achievements of competitors in the Paralympics and the disabilities they overcome, it makes sense that anyone who can fulfill the requirements for an astronaut should be considered.

  5. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    Lois McMaster Bujold - Falling Free

    Worth a read. Was my intro to Bujold, and I'm binge reading the Mile Vorkosigan at the moment.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Lois McMaster Bujold - Falling Free

      Velcro pads on your stumps and strong arms will suit you fine in space. At least according to Niven and Pournelle back in the 70's.

  6. amacater

    Being picky here - as a wheelchair user myself - but why single out parastoanauts - these folk will be astronauts, pure and simple. If I drive my car, I don't suddenly become a paradriver. If I eat out at a restaurant - I'm not suddenly a paradiner.

    This is disguised able-ism drawing attention to disability as "other" in a not so subtle way.

    1. ArdentSceptic


      Just a quick point of order:

      All of those selected to go on astronaut training are considered to be _astronauts_ (well, to be pedantic, "astronaut candidates" until they fly).

      This should not be confused with the project, which is called the "Parastronaut feasibility project". You will notice on the ESA webpage, that this distinction is strictly observed.

    2. rg287 Silver badge

      Being picky here - as a wheelchair user myself - but why single out parastoanauts - these folk will be astronauts, pure and simple.

      Because they're not astronauts - they're participants in a feasibility study. If any ultimately make it to being an AsCan and ultimately qualify to the Astronaut Corp then yes - they will be an astronaut like any other.


      In a first for ESA and human spaceflight worldwide, ESA 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.

      ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission.


      They're looking for individuals who currently cannot become astronauts because of limitations in existing space hardware design. ESA wants to work on that, presumably with a view to lifting those requirements in future selection campaigns (and possibly putting some of the feasibility study participants though into a suitably modified selection programme).

  7. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Is it bad that I'm thinking

    More bits missing from your body, less of you that needs rocket fuel to lift you into space, much money saved!

    Not necessarily for this reason but in Patrick Moore's "Scott Saunders" space adventure novel series, I think the permanent zero gravity space station commander had no legs. He may or may not have liked to surprise new crew by sitting behind his desk as they came in, then with British courtesy getting up... and up. I could be imagining that part, including being British.

  8. NanoMeter

    Personal assistant

    The disabled astronaut must shirley have a right to a personal assistant in space and on the Moon?

  9. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

    Millions are spent and hundreds people work just to send an astronaut to space. Why would you make it cost more and potentially jeopardise the mission just because you want to be seen as “politically correct”?

    It just makes no sense.

    If thousands astronauts were flying every year, than it would be understandable, but not now.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      It's a feasibility matter and I'm sure, given the variation in disabilities, that there will be people who are not disadvantaged by their disability in a space environment and by excluding them unnecessarily we are missing out on some talented people.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Waldo arm

      Waldo was disabled ... and they've got his arm on the ISS already.

      So - makes sense to me.

  10. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    The Perfect Astronaut

    In the times before Political Correctness (last millennium, in fact), I read that the perfect astronaut, as far as NASA was concerned would be "a midget with a physics degree". Lighter than a 6 foot aryan übermensch, takes up less room and just as able to perform inside the ISS as anyone else. The only issues would be the inability to use current space suits for EVAs.

    In WW1 there was a height restriction on British Soldiery (5'3") and chest of 34" minimum. This excluded many thousands of otherwise perfectly fit and able men. So the Bantam Battalions were formed:

    As a rock climber (of no repute, I hasten to add) some of the best rock climbers are short. John Streetly and Don Whillans were 5'3", and Johnny Dawes is 5'5". All truly superb athletes.

    So if you can and want to, you really should apply.

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