British Paralympic sprinter John McFall could become first para-astronaut

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McFall won T42 100m bronze medal for Great Britain at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics

John McFall may make history as the first ever disabled person to go into space after being selected by the European Space Agency as one of 17 astronauts to take part in future missions.

That could potentially involve going to The Moon.

The 41-year-old sprinter lost his right leg in a motorbike accident in Thailand when he was 19.

Determined not to quit his passion for running, McFall took on the stewardship of former Welsh athlete Darrell Maynard and qualified for the 2005 IPC European Championships. He claimed bronze in the T42 200m and was subsequently placed on a funding programme, enabling him to become a full-time athlete.

At the 2006 IPC World Championships, he won silver in the T42 100m and bronze in the 200m. In 2007 he was ranked first in the 100m and second in the 200m in his category.

John McFall (L) at Beijing 2008 (Getty)

It was at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics that McFall claimed the biggest prize of his career with bronze in the T42 200m.

One of the best facts about McFall’s life is that he chose to travel back to the UK from China via the Trans-Siberian Railway and crossed Mongolia, Russia and Ukraine before entering Central Europe.

He retired afterwards to focus on a career in medicine.

In 2014, McFall graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the Cardiff University School of Medicine.

He also became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 2016 and is currently a Trauma and Orthopaedic Specialist Registrar working in the south of England.

McFall has now been selected to take part in the ESA Parastronaut Feasibility Project and could eventually become the first ever para-astronaut.

Meet ESA’s class of 2022 astronauts 👇 #ESAastro2022 pic.twitter.com/P77q35qXCZ

— ESA (@esa) November 23, 2022

“When ESA announced they were looking for a candidate with a physical disability, I thought it was such an inspiring and exhilarating opportunity,” McFall said. “I looked at the specification and I thought ‘wow, this is really aspirational and a very bold and brave thing to do’, and with my broad scientific background I felt compelled answer this question.

“I think I can bring lots of things to the feasibility study but I think in particular I can bring inspiration that science is for everyone but inspiration that space is for everyone.”

Last year represented the first time since 2008 that the space agency put out a call for applicants to join their astronaut program.

McFall was one of 257 applicants with a physical disability and turned out to be the lucky chosen one.

He will now take part in the training corps as a para-astronaut – part of a feasibility study to see what needs to be adapted and redesigned for him to go to space.

It may take several years though. British astronaut Tim Peake trained with ESA in 2009 before going into space in 2016.

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