Disabled British man selected for astronaut training by European Space Agency

A disabled British man has been selected to take part in the astronaut training programme by the European Space Agency.

John McFall will join the space training corps to see if he can be the first disabled person to go into space, in what would be a world first.

He is a British Paralympic sprinter from Surrey who lost his right leg in a motorbike accident age 19.

Mr McFall became a professional track and field athlete in 2005, going on to represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Paralympics.

Also joining the class of 2022 as a career astronaut is British astronomer Rosemary Coogan.

Ms Coogan, who was born in Northern Ireland, is among the six career astronauts to join the ESA workforce as permanent staff members.

She received her master’s degree in astronomy in 2015, where she conducted research on gamma-ray emission from black holes, before going on to pursue a PhD at the University of Sussex.

She also has an undergraduate master’s degree focusing on physics, mathematics, computer programming and astronomy.

Meanwhile, Meganne Christian, who was born in the UK and studied in Australia, successfully completed the astronaut selection process and will become a member of the ESA’s astronaut reserve.

The reserve team is made up of candidates who were successful throughout the entire selection process and were not recruited.

Astronauts in the reserve will remain employed by their current employers.

More than 22,500 people applied to join the programme, with the largest number coming from France (7,087), followed by Germany (3,695), and the UK (2,000).

Following a comprehensive screening phase, 1,361 people were invited to phase two of ESA’s astronaut selection, which was narrowed down to just over 400 applicants during phase three.

During ESA’s last call for astronauts in 2008, the number of applicants who provided a medical certificate and finalised their online application form was 8,413.

Tim Peake was among those selected, becoming the first British astronaut to be part of the ESA corps.

Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “This is a momentous day for the UK Space Agency, our space sector and the country as a whole.

“Through our investment in the European Space Agency, the UK is playing a leading role in space exploration and collaborating with international partners to use the unique vantage point of space to benefit life on Earth.”

“Space has an incredible power to inspire and I am sure Rosemary, John and Meganne will become heroes for many young people and inspire them to shoot for the stars.

“It’s also important to remember that, behind every astronaut, there is a dedicated team of people, including in the UK, working behind the scenes to achieve the incredible.”