Elon Musk will soon be sending tourists into space—and a quadruple amputee might be among the earliest passengers.
Back in November, Philippe Croizon launched the following tweet from his cellphone: “Hello @elonmusk. I am a famous French adventurer without arms or legs! Send me into space to show once again that anything is possible!” A few hours later, Musk—the CEO of SpaceX, which plans to fly the first civilian space travelers into earth orbit later this year—tweeted back: “One day we will fly you on Starship.”
Tweet is cheap, as the old saying (sorta) goes, and Musk’s use of the indefinite “one day” qualifier gave him a whole galaxy’s worth of wiggle room. But it quickly become clear that the gazillionaire wasn’t just blowing methane out his engine. Since that exchange of tweets last fall, Croizon has rapidly ascended to the upper ranks on SpaceX’s list of future passengers. He’s been in direct contact with Jared Isaacman, who will command SpaceX’s first passenger flight (dubbed “Inspiration 4”) in October. Although Croizon won’t be aboard for that maiden voyage, he’s been invited to Cape Kennedy to witness the launch and meet with Musk’s team. By this time next year, he may be in the final countdown to become the world’s first astro-amputee.
If and when it happens, it won’t be the first noteworthy feat on Croizon’s resume. He’s already the first quadruple amputee to swim the English Channel, the only quad amp to complete the Dakar Rally, and one of the few people ever (able-bodied or disabled) to swim the four straits separating Europe, Africa, Oceania, Asia, and North America. Throw in some skydiving exploits and a few other adventures, and Croizon seems as well prepared as anyone for the rigors of space travel. Perhaps the biggest test he’ll have to pass in order to qualify for a flight is linguistic: He’ll have to learn enough English to communicate with his crewmates before SpaceX clears him for launch.
Croizon, who was born able-bodied (he lost his limbs in an electrical accident at age 26), says his dream of flying in space dates to childhood. After he finished his circuit of the continental straits, he told reporters: “I have another sea to cross, and that is the Sea of Tranquility on the moon. It is a lifelong dream to see the stars with no light pollution and see our little planet just below and say, ‘Wow, how beautiful it is!'”
Spacewalking on One Leg?
It so happens SpaceX isn’t the only extraterrestrial carrier that’s recruiting amputee astronauts these days. The European Space Agency announced last week the creation of the Parastronaut Feasibility Project, whose twin goals are to a) identify individuals with disabilities who are qualified to work in space, and b) develop the technology and procedures necessary to accommodate and support said persons.
“ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission,” the organization writes on its website. “Because we believe that exploration is the matter of a collective effort, we need to extend the pool of talents we can rely on. . . . It is our hope to push the envelope on the topic of disability at work, and inspire people with special needs to apply to other jobs at ESA and in the space sector.”
Lots more to read about the project here. No word yet on whether Philippe Croizon has been invited to apply. If he blasts off with Musk’s team in the coming months, perhaps he’ll end up as the parastronaut program’s director.