European Space Agency seeks first “Parastronaut”

For the first time in more than a decade, the European Space Agency (ESA) has started a process of recruiting new astronauts. And for the first time in history, the “vacancy” is open to people with physical disabilities.

The agency looks for people who have psychological, cognitive, technical and professional qualifications for the position, but who have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the limitations imposed by the equipment currently used in the missions.

"Visible representation is always important, so we ask ourselves what are the barriers that prevent us from taking a physically disabled astronaut to the ISS," said Jan Wörner, ESA director-general.

ESA says it will work with suppliers of manned vehicles (currently the Russian space agency Roscosmos and SpaceX ) to "identify possible adaptations to eventually allow a disabled astronaut to go into space."

"There is a lot of unknowns ahead of us, and the only promise we can make today is a serious, honest and dedicated attempt to pave the way for a disabled astronaut," the agency said in a statement.

ESA expects to recruit four to six career astronauts and 20 reserve astronauts, including the parastronaut. Registration for the vacancy will be open between March 1st and May 28th.

Applicants must be citizens of an ESA member country or associated with the agency, have a master's degree in natural sciences, medicine, engineering or mathematics, have at least three years of experience in the field and speak fluent English.

According to the agency, the ideal candidate is able to work well with a multicultural team, spend long periods away from family and friends, resist rigorous physical training and remain calm under pressure.

The selection process will consist of six stages. ESA's new team of astronauts will be announced in the second half of 2022.

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