The European Space Agency is seeking to hire astronauts with disabilities

For the first time in more than a decade, the European Space Agency (ESA) is now seeking new astronauts. This time, however, the agency will put inclusivity at the forefront of the draft process, hoping to make the future of space exploration more representative.

In an effort to achieve greater diversity in the world of space exploration, ESA’s latest astronaut recruitment drive will focus on hiring more women and, in a world-first, open the application process to people with disabilities who have always wanted to go to space.

So far, people with disabilities have been excluded from all of Earth’s space programs due to physical requirements meant to prepare astronauts for the rigors of space travel. The ESA is now the first space agency to open those doors through what it’s calling the Parastronaut Feasibility Project.

“Representing all parts of our society is a concern that we take very seriously,” said ESA Human and Robotic Exploration Director David Parker. “Diversity at ESA should not only address the origin, age, background or gender of our astronauts, but also perhaps physical disabilities.”

In addition to representing a huge step towards better inclusivity and representation in space programs, the initiative could also lead to the development of new technologies that make space travel simpler and safer.

“We are looking towards the Moon… and Mars,” said Jan Worner, ESA’s director-general. “We need very excellent astronauts for the future. To go farther than we ever have before, we need to look wider than we ever have before.”

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