First disabled astronaut: ESA introduces new astronauts

Status: 11/23/2022 7:08 PM

After more than ten years, the European Space Agency ESA is training astronauts again. Two Germans are also in the class as reserve astronauts and one disabled person for the first time. The first stop for future 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, including 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 be given a consultant contract and basic training in case an opportunity arises at short notice.

The world’s first para-astronaut

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

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

ESA introduces new astronauts

Friederike Hofmann, ARD Paris, Daily Topics 10:50 PM, November 24, 2022

The training starts in Cologne

The aspiring astronauts will initially be trained for a year at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne. The curriculum there covers the basics of natural sciences, engineering and Russian. After about three years of training, the crew will initially support their colleagues in space with ground controls.

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

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

Nearly 23,000 applications

ESA started looking for new astronauts in March. In total, almost 23,000 applications were received, of which 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 states, where a significantly increased three-year budget was decided. In total, the ESA will 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 launcher and space exploration by robots and astronauts.

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