Space for Persons with Disabilities



Pushing Frontiers: Human Spaceflight and Disability

Aligning with the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, the Office aims to contribute to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development in space through the Space for Persons with Disabilities project. One of the aims of this project is to engage persons with disabilities with space science, thus enhancing prospects for people to progress into careers in STEM and engage decision-makers to facilitate and assist initiatives targeting inclusivity in space science. In doing so, the project strives to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal SDG 11: Reduced Inequalities, in addition to SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, and SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

Physical disabilities have up until now been avoided in space. However, space exploration is a massive endeavour that requires collective effort from a pool of the best qualified individuals. One effective way of doing this is to include more people of different genders, ages and backgrounds, including people with physical disabilities. For the first time in the history of human spaceflight, the European Space Agency (ESA) is recruiting individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware. With this pilot project, ESA has taken the first step to mainstreaming disability and inspiring people with disabilities to pursue an education and/or career in the wider space sector. 

Join us in this multi-disciplinary webinar to learn more about the ESA Parastronaut Feasibility Project, and explore the challenges and opportunities in this emerging field from the perspectives of technical innovations, hardware adaptations, physiology, management of diversity and team dynamics.


The objectives are this webinar are:

  • Contributing to the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion strategy.

  • Raise awareness of the Space for Persons with Disabilities project and disability inclusion in space, in particular human spaceflight.

  • Enhance understanding of the ESA Parastronaut Feasibility Project, and the challenges and opportunities in spaceflight for people with disabilities.

  • Contribute to SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities by

    - Facilitating public discussion on mainstreaming disability in space exploration;
    - Stimulating discussion about disability inclusion and disability mainstreaming among the different stakeholder groups of the space community, including the diplomatic community, the private sector and academia;
    - Inspiring people with disabilities to pursue an education and/or career in the space industry.

Event Details:

Date: 31 March 2021 (Wednesday)
Time: 15:00hr to 16:30hr (CEST)

Agenda and Speakers:

For the recording of the webinar, click here.

  • Welcome Remarks: Dr. Simonetta Di Pippo, Director, UNOOSA
  • Opening Remarks: H.E. Ambassador and Permanent Representative Corrine Kitsell, United Kingdom
  • Introduction to Diversity & Inclusion at the European Space Agency (ESA) : Ersilia Vaudo, Chief Diversity Officer, ESA ( pdf and video 13:55-23:23 )
  • Human Spaceflight: What it takes to be an Astronaut: Jennifer Ngo-Anh, Directorate of Human and Robotic Exploration, ESA ( pdf and video 23:45-28:39 )
  • Technical Challenges and Innovations for Accessibility: Stéphane Ghiste, European Astronaut Centre Management Support Office, ESA ( pdf and video 28:57-42:45 )
  • Space Physiology and Engineering: Ms. Ilaria Cinelli, PhD FAsMA, Past President of the Aerospace Human Factors Association ( pdf and video 43:10-56:54 )
  • Beyond Hardware: Workplace Diversity and Team Performance: Professor Gro Mjeldheim Sandal, Professor in Psychology, University of Bergen, Norway ( video 57:25-1:10:14 )
  • Creating Space for Possibilities: Mr. Eddie Ndopu, UN SDG Advocate ( video 1:10:41-1:15:25 )

For the programme details and speakers' biographies please click here


The webinar is open to all. However, participation will be limited to 250 people during the "live" session.
Registration is closed.



Reference Links:

European Space Agency (ESA) Parastronaut feasibility project
ESA Astronaut Selection
ESA Astronaut Selection 2021 Media Kit

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