Because Space Is For Everyone!

The European Space Agency is preparing for a space exploration first.

Jul 8, 2021
Because Space Is For Everyone! | The European Space Agency is preparing for a space exploration first.

It’s 2021, and it seems that the drive for life to become more inclusive for people with all abilities is finally set for liftoff. Why? Because the deadline for the European Space Agency’s first astronaut recruitment drive in ten years has just passed, and this time, in a world first, people with physical disabilities were invited to apply.

This broader recruitment effort, as David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration says in a media release launching the application process, is part of a more ambitious bid by the agency to implement a truly inclusive vision for its future:

 "Representing all parts of our society is a concern that we take very seriously,” he said. “Diversity at ESA should not only address the origin, age, background or gender of our astronauts, but also perhaps physical disabilities. To make this dream a reality, alongside the astronaut recruitment, I am launching the Parastronaut Feasibility Project – an innovation whose time has come."

Mr. Parker stressed that the disabled astronaut would be expected to be an active team player: “"We want the astronaut with a disability to do a real job," he said at the press briefing, as reported on

This sentiment was echoed by ESA Director General, Jan Wörner, when discussing the space agency’s  wish to return to the cutting edge of space exploration:  

“To go farther than we ever have before, we need to look wider than we ever have before. This recruitment process is the first step and I look forward to watching the agency develop across all areas of space exploration and innovation, with our international partners, in the years to come,” he said.

And the public interest in the ESA’s call up is impressive. Its head, Josef Aschbacher, was pleased to reveal to news agency Reuters, that of the 22,000 applications to join ESA’s astronaut corps, several hundred potential “parastronauts” had made a bid for the sought-after role. 

"We would like to launch an astronaut with a disability, which would be the first time ever," the Austrian added. "But I'm also happy for ESA because it shows that space is for everyone, and that's something I'd like to convey." 

The nuts and bolts of what this entailed were also touched on. “The ESA has promised to develop technologies to ensure those with disabilities, like shortened legs, play a full part.” 

It is significant too that of the recent ESA applications, a quarter were submitted by women, up from 15 percent a decade ago. This was almost matched by female parastronauts applying (23 percent according to German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle). 

Perhaps this is not so surprising, as the ESA media release on the initial astronaut call up, reveals that “ESA is strongly encouraging women to apply, because we are seeking to expand gender diversity in our ranks.” reports that the space agency’s human resources staff are now sifting through the applications, with only 1,500 candidates set to be invited for the initial psychological assessment. The six-stage selection process will conclude in late 2022, with four to six staff astronauts, and up to 20 reserve astronauts likely to be chosen. Initially, one disabled astronaut will be selected, while an expected 15 percent of the new recruits will be women.

The Reuters article suggests that the world of space exploration is seeing several initiatives from key tech players, such as Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX jostling for a part in this space. 

As a result, state agencies such as ESA, with an average seven to eight launches a year, and the larger US state agency, NASA, with around 40, are working hard to refashion their agencies as entrepreneurial actors. They are also open to the idea of collaborating with other national and regional space agencies to expand space exploration possibilities.

European Space Agency Plans to Make Space Debris History!
Meet the UAE’s First Female Astronaut
Brilliant 8-Year-Old UK Girl is Teaming Up With NASA

Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.