Differently abled McFall among 5 new astronauts named by European Space Agency

Published November 24, 2022
Member of ESA's new class of astronauts John McFall attends the European Space Agency (ESA) Council at Ministerial level (CM22) at the Grand Palais Ephemere in Paris, France, November 23, 2022. — Reuters
Member of ESA's new class of astronauts John McFall attends the European Space Agency (ESA) Council at Ministerial level (CM22) at the Grand Palais Ephemere in Paris, France, November 23, 2022. — Reuters

PARIS: The European Space Agency announced five new career astronauts as well as history’s first astronaut recruit with a disability on Wednesday after adopting a record budget to fund its projects.

The two female and three male career astronauts “will start working immediately,” ESA director-general Josef Aschbacher told a ministerial council meeting in Paris.

From more than 22,500 applicants, the agency chose France’s Sophie Adenot, Spain’s Pablo Alvarez Fernandez, Britain’s Rosemary Coogan, Belgium’s Raphael Liegeois and Switzerland’s Marco Sieber.

They start training next year, with a first mission into orbit not expected until 2026.

They will join the astronauts from the ESA’s previous 2009 astronaut class, including Britain’s Timothy Peake and France’s Thomas Pesquet, one of whom will go to the Moon as part of the Artemis mission. “No one is retiring today,” Pesquet said, advising the new recruits to “hang on tight”.

The ESA also announced the first astronaut recruit with a physical disability, Britain’s John McFall, who will join a separate “parastronaut” programme. McFall’s right leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident at the age of 18. He went on to represent the UK as a Paralympic sprinter and works as a trauma and orthopaedic specialist in the south of England, the ESA said in a statement.

The new astronauts were named after two days of tough talks by ministers from the ESA’s 22 member states meeting in Paris to decide on the agency’s future funding.

They settled on a budget of 16.9 billion euros ($17.5 billion) for the next three years, a 17-percent increase from the 14.5 billion euros agreed at the last ministerial council meeting in 2019. But it is well short of the 18.5 billion requested by Aschbacher.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2022

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