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A Paralympic athlete might become the world's first disabled astronaut

Business Insider logo Business Insider 5 days ago sstacey@insider.com (Stephanie Stacey)
John McFall (left) won a Bronze medal at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Andrew Wong/Getty Images © Andrew Wong/Getty Images John McFall (left) won a Bronze medal at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Andrew Wong/Getty Images
  • British doctor and Paralympian John McFall is set to become the world's first "parastronaut."
  • He's part of a European Space Agency "feasibility project" to include astronauts with disabilities.
  • McFall's right leg was amputated above the knee after a motorbike accident when he was 19.

A 41-year-old Paralympian and medical doctor could become the world's first "parastronaut." 

John McFall is 0ne of the European Space Agency's new class of trainee astronauts — its first batch of new recruits in 13 years.

The ESA hopes that McFall will be the first astronaut with a physical disability to travel into space.

He's the center of ESA's new feasibility project, which aims to develop options to include astronauts with physical disabilities in spaceflight. McFall called his selection for the program "a real turning point and mark in history."

The ESA said: "There are many unknowns ahead of us, the only promise we can make today is one of a serious, dedicated and honest attempt to clear the path to space for a professional astronaut with a physical disability."

McFall's right leg was amputated above the knee after a motorbike crash in Ko Samui, Thailand when he was 19.

After being fitted with a prosthesis, McFall took up running as well as mountain biking and climbing.

In 2008, he won a bronze medal in the 100m sprint at the Beijing Paralympic Games.

McFall told BBC News he'd never dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but felt inspired by the ESA's commitment to supporting diversity.

"I looked at the person specification and it just kind of jumped out to me. I felt so inspired by it. I felt compelled to apply," he said.

McFall is due to start a 12-month program of basic training at the European Space Agency in Spring next year.

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