John McFall: who is British Paralympian, accident explained, will he be first disabled astronaut in space?

John McFall has been chosen by the European Space Agency to see if he can be the first disabled person to go into space.

<p>John McFall, a British paralympian, has been chosen to take part in the astronaut training programme by the European Space Agency.</p>

John McFall, a British paralympian, has been chosen to take part in the astronaut training programme by the European Space Agency.

A British Paralympian 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.

Also joining the class of 2022 as a career astronaut is British astronomer Rosemary Coogan. She is among the six career astronauts to join the ESA workforce as permanent staff members.

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.

But who is John McFall, what happened with his accident and would he be the first disabled astronaut in Space? Here’s what you need to know.

Who is John McFall?

McFall is a Paralympian sprinter. As a teen he played hockey and was also a runner. He took up running again after being fitted with a prosthesis after an amputation, and took part in his first race in 2004. The following year, he was selected to represent Great Britain at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) European Championships, and took the bronze medal in the 200 metres.

He went on top compete in a string of events winning a host of medals. He had been described as one of the fastest men in the world in 100 and 200 metres for above the knee amputees.

In 2008 he competed for Great Britain in the Summer Paralympics at Bejing in the 100 metres event taking bronze with a time of 13.08 seconds.

John McFall, a British paralympian, has been chosen to take part in the astronaut training programme by the European Space Agency.

What happened with his accident?

McFall, who was born in Surrey, was involved in a serious accident when he was 19 years old in 2000. He had been on a gap year in Thailand and was riding a moped when he went round a corner too fast.

He had put his leg out to stop, but smashed his knee, and the moped fell on top of him. His lower right leg sustained severe damage and it had to be amputated above the knee.

The new astronaut candidates during the ESA announcement.

Will he be the first disabled person in space?

He could be. He has been chosen to 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.

McFall is the ESA’s first “parastronaut”, speaking during the announcement he said: “Science is for everyone and so is space.”

He told the BBC of his decision to apply for the scheme: “When ESA announced that they were looking for candidates with a physical disability to run this astronaut feasibility project, 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.”

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.”

Alison Kerry, Head of Communications at disability equality charity Scope said: “This is a major leap forward. Every project, from building a website to training to be an astronaut should include and consider disabled people right from the very beginning. If we did this our society would be much more accessible to everyone.

“Better representation of disabled people in influential roles will really help improve attitudes and break down the barriers that many disabled people face today.”