See the future for disabled astronauts flying zero-gravity craft

Eric Ingram usually travels the world in his wheelchair. Smart Satellite Components Company, SCOUT Inc. CEO K.K. was born with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a rare condition that affects his joints and prevents him from dreaming of becoming an astronaut. He applied and was rejected twice.

But on this week’s special flight, it spun freely through the air without touching anything. They found that it was easier to get around in a simulated zero gravity environment where they needed less equipment.

When he simulated the moon’s gravity in flight – about one-sixth the force of gravity – he discovered something even more surprising: for the first time in his life he could stand.

“That’s legal weird,” he said. “Standing still is probably almost as foreign to me as swimming weightless.”

He was one of 12 disabled passengers who floated mid-air on a parabolic flight over Southern California last Sunday to see how disabled people cope with a zero-gravity environment. Parabolic flights flying one after the other in Earth’s atmosphere allow passengers to weightless on the arc above for a few short eruptions and are a regular part of astronaut training. .

The flight was organized by AstroAccess, a non-profit initiative that aims to make space travel accessible to everyone. Although there have been about 600 people in space since the beginning of manned spaceflight in the 1960s, NASA and other space agencies have restricted astronaut work to a small fraction of humanity. US authorities initially only selected physically fit white men as astronauts and, after expanding their criteria, only selected those who met certain physical requirements. used to complete.

This prevents many people with disabilities from entering space and ignores the argument that people with disabilities can, in some cases, make great astronauts.

But the rise of private space travel, funded by billionaires with support from government space agencies, creates the prospect of enabling a much wider and more diverse range of people to travel to the edge of space and beyond. and aims to include persons with disabilities.

AstroAccess flight participants on Sunday said accessibility issues need to be addressed now – with the advent of private space travel – at the latest as more time and money is needed to have retrofit equipment available.