ESA Astronauts of 2022: Most Diverse Group Ever23rd Nov 2022
The European Space Agency (ESA) announced its astronaut class of 2022 on 23rd November. Women comprise almost 50% of the ESA astronauts intake. It is the first time in over a decade, since 2008, that ESA has opened applications for astronauts. It also marks the first time the space agency chose a person with a disability, dubbed a ‘Parastronaut’, to join a feasibility study into how space exploration can be made possible for those with physical conditions.
The selection was announced at the Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris at the closing of the ESA Council at the Ministerial Level. Josef Aschbacher, director general of the ESA, said on stage that “these are incredible people” and he enjoyed interviewing them in the final stages of the process. “You see some of the astronauts here in the room and I know them pretty well now and they really have talents that are quite incredible. I mean, they are unique”.
ESA Astronauts class of 2022
Out of almost 23,000 applications, 17 individuals were chosen for the new class. The group comprised eight women and nine men. This was a huge increase from the last selection in 2008, as the only female chosen was Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
ESA’s first Parastronaut
Adding to the highly diverse list of new astronauts is ESA’s first with a physical disability. Joining the class is John McFall from the United Kingdom who suffers from a physical disability after losing his leg in a motorcycle accident when he was 19. The Paralympic sprinter from Surrey will join ESA in finding “necessary adaptions of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission”, according to the space agency.
While McFall is completely qualified like the others, it may take longer for him to fly to space as ESA works with international partners to make it a possibility. McFall was one of 257 applications from other European people with disabilities.