Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name



Physics and Astronomy

Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

Space program; disability accommodations; spaceflight accommodations; International Space Station; NASA; human spaceflight


Since the start of the astronaut program in the 1960s, candidates have had to prove to be in prime physical shape before being granted clearance to fly, whereas those with physical disabilities such as blindness or deafness are automatically disqualified. The stigma that disabled persons are less qualified to succeed in a physically alien environment has persisted, though little research exists in revisiting the difficulties posed by allowing this group into the space program. This paper aims to reconsider the advantages and disadvantages of a disability-friendly space program, to include cost considerations, potential challenges, and the unique benefits posed by allowing this minority group into the astronaut program. Such advantages include unique health and mental advantages disabled persons acquire as a result of their disability. Suggestions to reconfigure the current space program into a disability-friendly one are introduced for consideration.

Lay Summary

Space programs today generally disqualify applicants with a physical disability early on in the application process. In general, these candidates' disabilities are viewed to be prohibitive to the success and safety of spaceflight missions. However, as missions are shifting to multi-year durations, a primary concern is focused on the effects of spaceflight on the body associated with these longer missions. Potential side effects of a micro-gravity environment can include loss of eyesight, hearing, and spinal and muscle issues. By considering the recruitment candidates who have these disabilities on earth--those who are deaf/hard-of-hearing, legally blind, and paraplegics and amputees--it opens a potential for reducing the risk associated with such side effects. The aim of this paper is to consider such benefits in detail and consider how to adapt the modern-day space program to accommodate such disabilities, with the current astronaut training program and daily routine in mind.