First disabled astronaut marks ‘major leap forward’ – charity

British Paralympian John McFall has been selected by the European Space Agency to join its training programme.

John McFall from the UK has been chosen as the first disabled astronaut (ESA)
John McFall from the UK has been chosen as the first disabled astronaut (ESA)

The appointment of the first ever parastronaut marks a “major leap forward”, a leading disability equality charity has said.

John McFall will become the world’s first disabled astronaut after being selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to join its training programme.

The British Paralympian will take part in the space training corps, with the hope that he can become the first disabled person to go into space.

Charity Scope said that having more disabled people in influential roles will “break down barriers” for others.

Alison Kerry, head of communications at Scope, said: “This is a major leap forward.

“Every project, from building a website to training to be an astronaut should include and consider disabled people right from the very beginning.

“If we did this, our society would be much more accessible to everyone.

“Better representation of disabled people in influential roles will really help improve attitudes and break down the barriers that many disabled people face today.”

Mr McFall, 41, lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident when he was 19 but went on to become a professional track and field athlete.

John McFall represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Paralympics - winning a bronze medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008 (Julien Behal/PA)
John McFall represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Paralympics – winning a bronze medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008 (Julien Behal/PA)

He represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Paralympics – winning a bronze medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008.

The ESA said that Mr McFall was selected to take part in its parastronaut feasibility project to “improve our understanding of, and overcome, the barriers space flight presents for astronauts with a physical disability”.

Mr McFall is also a medical doctor and is currently studying for his Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) exams.

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