back to article ESA names first Parastronaut: paralympian and aspiring surgeon John McFall

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced its intake of 17 astronauts for 2022 on Wednesday – including five career astronauts, 11 astronaut reserves and one selected from its November 2021 Parastronaut Feasibility Study. "Today we welcome the 17 members of the new ESA astronaut class 2022. This ESA astronaut class is bringing …

  1. Little Mouse

    The European Space Agency (ESA) announced its intake of 17 astronauts for 2022 on Wednesday"

    Breaking news? I read about this on the BBC two days ago...

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "a former Paralympic sprinter with a bronze medial to his name"

    Meaning that this guy, with one less leg than I have, can run faster and farther than I ever could or ever will.

    Hats off.

    1. Sceptic Tank Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: "a former Paralympic sprinter with a bronze medial to his name"

      A medial, huh ....

      1. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: "a former Paralympic sprinter with a bronze medial to his name"

        Beat me to it. Have a beer.

      2. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: "a former Paralympic sprinter with a bronze medial to his name"

        The second time it was remedial.

        -A.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: "a former Paralympic sprinter with a bronze medial to his name"

      Bronze? I'm pretty sure it's stainless and titanium, with a little delrin and carbon fiber.

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: "a former Paralympic sprinter with a bronze medial to his name"

      Look at it this way, at least you have a slightly above average amount of legs. And other appendages.

  3. werdsmith Silver badge

    Bipeds

    The design of two legs is optimised for uneven terrain under gravity. Not really required so much in orbit.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Bipeds

      Yeah, I was thinking that too. In orbit, being shy one leg likely isn't much of a handicap, if any.

      He said "what it is about having a physical disability that makes it trickier and overcome those hurdles."

      To be fair, I suspect he and they won't actually learn all that much that isn't obvious simply because this is one physical disability and possibly the one that will have the least effect. I'd imagine it will be great for him being microgravity and not having to deal with the earthbound problems a prosthetic leg can have, but I suspect people with other physical disabilities will not benefit much from this experiment, eg those missing a hand or arm, blind or deaf.

      On the other hand, it's one small step (no pun intended).

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Bipeds

        Actually in Orbit if all is running to plan, I can't imagine one leg is going to be a problem. But in emergency situations at launch or splashdown there might have to be some adaptation of procedure.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Bipeds

          On orbit, not in orbit.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Bipeds

      And given the costs of flinging mass into space it might even be an advantage to have a couple of legs missing: less body mass, less clothing, maybe even less food...

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Bipeds

      "The design of two legs is optimised for uneven terrain under gravity. Not really required so much in orbit."

      You might be surprised. It's easier to anchor and position your body with two legs so you can do work. The whole Action / Reaction thing is very pronounced in zero G.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Bipeds

        It's not zero G. It's micro gravity.

        1. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: Bipeds

          Will he have to change his name to McFreeFall?

          -A.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Bipeds

        You might be surprised. It's easier to anchor and position your body with two legs so you can do work.

        I would think this is an easier prosthetic adaptation than rough ground, beaches, stairs and ramps. Especially in a closed environment.

  4. Lordrobot

    The grand spectacle of Diversity

    What next the Deliverance kid in space? Oh that's right Bill Nelson went to space.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

      No, but at the Artemis launch they kept repeating "we will land the first woman and person of color on the Moon"

      Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

      It got to be a bit much, even for me.

      I don't care what color or internal plumbing they have. I don't even care if they have two legs. or if they're 75 years old or 25.

      Can they get the job done, not endanger anyone else on the mission, not break any hardware, get all the science, and get home safe?

      Edit: and if you want someone worse than Bill "Congressional junket in space" Nelson, look up "Barfin' Jake" Garn. Spent the entire mission puking his guts out, having to have a professional astronaut take time from their mission to nanny him.

      1. Dom 3

        Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

        Quite. If I were on that mission because of my "internal plumbing" or pigmentation I'd be rightly pissed off that I had not obtained it on merit.

        Plenty of qualified candidates of all sorts.

        Requirements have changed. The quick thinking, physical strength [1] (etc.) of the 1960s is not needed for current LEO missions.

        Rather a calm procedural approach.

        If they / we do a Mars mission this may be required again. OTOH a long-term mission like that is not a great fit for testosterone-ridden hulking fighter jocks. Maybe smaller people with lower calorific requirements with good social skills?

        [1] Ed White who made the first US space walk was *very* fit. So they didn't realise just how difficult it was to do it. And obvs., being a jock, he would have made it sound easy.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

          "Maybe smaller people with lower calorific requirements with good social skills?"

          A gymnast might be a good fit. If you have to move anything that has a bit of mass, you need to be good at balancing forces. Think of shoveling coal into loco, on Earth you can jam your shovel into the coal since you are stood firmly on the deck with some friction. Try to do the same sort of thing in space (not burn coal, obviously) and the shovel would stop and you would launch yourself the other way. You'd need to orient yourself differently and good tumbling skills would help you get into the best position.

          1. Dom 3

            Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

            "A gymnast might be a good fit". In pre-Mercury days NASA considered recruiting from all sorts - circus performers even. Going with test pilots might seem obvious in hindsight, and I believe that the fact that they all already had security clearance was one of the factors.

            "smaller people with lower calorific requirements" was a nod to the double X chromosome.

            1. Snapper

              Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

              I think the title 'Test Pilot' with the associated speed of reaction, orientation, decision making and the awesome piloting skills to get the bird safely back on the ground might have been some of the other factors.

        2. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: plumbing

          How would you feel if you had been rejected for the mission because the male engineers didn't think to make the toilet compatible with that plumbing?

          -A.

        3. MJI Silver badge

          Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

          >> Maybe smaller people with lower calorific requirements with good social skills?

          First family in space - the Davis's

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

        "It got to be a bit much, even for me."

        Yes. Me too.

        However, sadly Tokenism is the new black. Get used to it, it'll be here until it runs it's course. Probably another eight or ten years or so.

        Malcolm X would have had something pithy to say about that. ... maybe something along the lines of “What gains? All you have gotten is tokenism — three or four Negroes in a job, or at a lunch counter, or on the Moon, or as Vice President, so the rest of you will be quiet.”

        It's a shame Malcolm didn't live to see a two-term, majority popular vote, black US President.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

        "Bill "Congressional junket in space" Nelson"

        That's too much to type, just use "ballast".

      4. captain veg Silver badge

        the first woman on the Moon

        You'd think that Amazon's space outfit would get in first.

        Mind you, given the delays to Artemis so far, maybe they will.

        -A.

  5. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    As ever, Arthur C. Clarke was prescient

    His character Commander Doyle, commander of the Inner Space Station orbiting 500 miles above the Earth in "Islands in the Sky", published in 1952, was a double leg-amputee.

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