First disabled astronaut: ESA introduces new astronauts

Status: 11/23/2022 7:08 p.m

After more than ten years, the European Space Agency ESA is again training astronauts. Two Germans are also in the class as reserve astronauts and, for the first time, one person with a disability. The first stop for the prospective astronauts is Cologne.

The European Space Agency (ESA) presented the next generation of astronauts in Paris. 17 women and men were selected – including five career astronauts and twelve so-called reserve astronauts who can be selected for specific missions. They succeed the current generation, which also includes the German Matthias Maurer.

Two Germans are also part of the reserve team: Nicola Winter and Amelie Schoenenwald were selected, as ESA tweeted. The reserve team will receive a consultant contract and basic training in the event that an opportunity arises at short notice.

World’s first para-astronaut

For the first time, ESA also selected an applicant with a disability. Brit John McFall lost a leg when he was 19 and has had a prosthesis ever since. The Paralympic sprinter will now become the first para-astronaut. “As an amputee, I never thought I could become an astronaut,” McFall said in an interview published on the ESA website.

The 31-year-old doctor is to help ESA engineers develop devices that will also enable disabled people to fly and work in space. This should also increase the field of applicants for future astronauts. ESA boss Josef Aschbacher said they wanted to open space to everyone.

Europe’s new space strategy

Michael Grytz, ARD Brussels, daily news 5:00 p.m., 23.11.2022

Training starts in Cologne

The prospective astronauts are initially trained for a year at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne. The curriculum there includes the basics of natural sciences, engineering and Russian. After approximately three years of training, the crew will initially support their colleagues in space with ground control.

Later they could then work on the International Space Station ISS. However, the future of the ISS remains uncertain. Russia had announced that it wanted to withdraw from the joint project after 2024. The US space agency NASA feels obliged to keep the outpost in operation at least until 2030.

Flights of an ESA astronaut to the moon could also be a long time coming. For example, missions to the “Lunar Gateway”, the planned station on the lunar orbit, would be possible.

Almost 23,000 applications

ESA started searching for new astronauts in March. A total of almost 23,000 applications were received, including 3,700 from Germany, 670 from Switzerland and 470 from Austria.

The new crew was presented at the ministerial meeting of the 22 ESA member countries, at which a significantly higher three-year budget was decided. In total, the ESA is to receive almost 17 billion euros. That is an increase of 17 percent. The money is to be used, among other things, for observing the effects of climate change, the Ariane 6 launch vehicle and space exploration by robots and astronauts.

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