A disabled astronaut’s state-of-the-art prosthesis might not be useful in space

John McFall not guaranteed space flight but part of ‘parastronaut feasibility project’ – Tony Jolliffe

The world’s first disabled astronaut may not be able to wear her prosthesis in space due to microgravity.

British paralympian John McFall made history by becoming the first European Space Agency (ESA) para-astronaut when he was selected last November.

Mr McFall, 42, is an amputee who lost his leg in a motorbike accident aged 19, and now uses a high-tech prosthesis fitted with a gyroscope, microprocessor and force sensors to help him stay upright.

This week he took a parabolic flight to experience weightlessness for the first time with the BBC, and said his state-of-the-art leg might not be as useful in space as it is on Earth.

“You’ll probably see me floating around with my leg straight out, because that gravity isn’t there,” he told the BBC’s Rebecca Morelle who was also seen floating weightlessly on the flight, on it is called the ‘vomit comet’ because of it. the participants can feel queasy.

“It’s harder for me to turn quickly – because my leg doesn’t want to bend.

One of the reasons for the parabolic flight was to see how well the prosthetic handles in a weightless environment - Tony Jolliffe

One of the reasons for the parabolic flight was to see how well the prosthetic handles in a weightless environment – Tony Jolliffe

“I’m getting used to that and working out how to move myself in zero-g, but every parabola is a learning opportunity.

“Do I have to wear a prosthesis? And if I wear a prosthesis, will I have to have something that accommodates volume variations in my stump?

“Would I be able to run on a treadmill in space? Will we have to adapt a spacesuit for a spacewalk? If so, in what ways? All these questions are things we don’t have answers to.”

Mr McFall is not guaranteed space flight, but is part of ESA’s “parastronaut feasibility project” to see what aspects of spaceflight need to be adapted to allow disabled people to go to space.

ESA wants to make it possible for short-sighted people, people with missing limbs and people with other physical disabilities to go to space. The team is looking at everything from pre-mission training to whether spacecraft need to be modified.

John McFall won a bronze medal in the 100 meters T42 category at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics - Andrew Wong/Getty Images

John McFall won a bronze medal in the 100 meters T42 category at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics – Andrew Wong/Getty Images

Mr McFall has said he hopes to inspire others and prove there is “travel space for everyone”.

One of the reasons for the parabolic flight was to see how well the prosthetic handles in a weightless environment.

Mr McFall won a bronze medal in the 100 meters T42 category at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics with a time of 13.08 seconds.

He was also a world champion in the 200 meters discipline and in his post-athletic life trained as a doctor and is now a trauma and orthopedics registrar. His medical career is now on hold as he trains with the ESA astronaut corps.

Mr McFall is in the ESA corps with Dr Rosemary Coogan, a British astronomer. Dr Coogan, from Northern Ireland, was born in 1991 and has a degree in physics, a masters in astronomy and a PhD in astrophysics.

As a career astronaut, Dr Coogan will have the opportunity to be one of the first people to return to the moon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *