Representatives of the European Space Agency have announced their desire to diversify the composition of the crew, according to Reuters. For the first time in history ESA is encouraging people with disabilities to apply. In particular, candidates are invited to parastronauts who, due to birth defects or amputations, do not have feet or legs, as well as those whose height is less than 130 cm.
Despite the fact that the agency encourages active applications, the requirements for astronaut candidates are quite strict. Only those who have the qualifications of a test pilot or at least a master's degree in natural sciences, medicine, engineering, mathematics, computer technology can apply for this. It also requires fluency in English, the ability to remain calm in challenging environments, and a willingness to engage in experiments in the natural sciences.
In total, ESA plans to recruit 26 people: six "professional astronauts" who will be permanent members of the ESA astronaut crew and will be able to command missions, as well as 20 "reserve astronauts" - they will be called up if necessary and will be able to participate in short-term missions. ESA CEO Jan Vomer said that all participants in the previous selection are in the ranks, but the agency is actively recruiting new staff out of a desire to “ensure continuity”. Future astronauts will travel into space on a variety of launch vehicles, including SpaceX, Soyuz and Boeing. It is assumed that they will be able to participate in missions to the moon, and then to Mars.
As for the vacancy of the parastronauts, they will still be members of the reserve crew. However, ESA plans to work with commercial space operators to find a safe way to send them to the ISS.