As part of its next recruitment campaign, the European Space Agency (ESA) has shown its openness to people with disabilities. The agency has indicated its intention to conduct a study that potentially identifies feasible adaptations to allow these people to travel in space.
ESA wants to recruit future “parastronauts”
Not long ago, we were talking about the upcoming European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut recruitment campaign. This will begin on March 31 and will allow a few lucky chosen to join the training program of the agency. While it was a question of recruiting two to four new astronauts, this quota was increased. Under pressure from certain member states, ESA should therefore recruit between four and six new heads.
As explained Euronews in an article from February 16, 2021, the ESA is now more open to women, but also people with disabilities. David Parker, director of Human and Robotics Exploration at the agency, said he wants to represent all parts of our society. Thus, the agency should recruit future “parastronauts”.
As a first step, the organization will hire one or two candidates to join the new reserve astronaut corps. These new recruits will be required to participate in a feasibility study on access to space flights for people with disabilities.
A study with multiple objectives
According to the head of the management of the European Astronaut Center Guillaume Weerts, ESA could select candidates who have undergone a handicap in both lower limbs. It could be amputations or birth defects. In addition, the handicap should ideally be below the knee, in particular for reasons of adaptation of the equipment. People with one leg shorter than the other or small individuals (less than 1.30 m) could also be part of the lucky ones.
The study in question will aim to demonstrate several things. It will be a question of ensuring that these people can reach the International Space Station safely, but also perform the same functions as other astronauts. Insofar as each handicap implies a certain number of issues, the study will also focus on any necessary adaptations. These will concern in particular the material and the procedures.
This work will include tests on various aircraft, namely SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner. One of the objectives will be to assess the needs in terms of interior fittings. One of the most important concerns is that parastronauts will need to be able to escape fully autonomous capsule in an emergency and without endangering other astronauts.