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Astronauts with disabilities?

The question of who is fit to fly to space raises the question of who God considers fit to live on earth

Did you ever dream of becoming an astronaut? If you grew up with Luke Skywalker, Spock or even Buck Rogers, there’s a good chance you did. Then you graduated college and got a regular job somewhere on the Blue Planet. After all, almost nobody actually becomes an astronaut.

NASA, SpaceX, the European Space Agency and co. expect astronauts to be in tip-top physical shape. That includes 20/20 vision, a strong heart and a healthy body with all the limbs and joints working optimally. No surprise then, that NASA only accepts between 0,4 and 0,8% of applicants.

That could change if South African, Eddie Ndopu gets his way. Eddie was born with spinal muscular atrophy and is confined to a wheelchair. He’s the first disabled African Oxford graduate, and he plans to be the first disabled man on the moon.

There’s a growing argument for people with physical disabilities to travel to Space.

They are used to tackling mobility issues, which is useful if you want to work in zero gravity. They are used to living in an environment that is not well-suited to them. They are used to relying on tech to get through the day. When Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield was once temporarily blinded on a space walk in 2001, people perked up to the possibility that a blind astronaut may have the edge in a Space emergency.

We are conditioned to focus on what a disabled person has lost. We often miss much of what they have gained over “normal” people.

Will NASA or Virgin Galactic shift to allow disabled space-travelers? We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, there are lessons to learn from the question of disabilities in outer space, and the limitations of humans here on Earth.

Back at the Supreme Mission Control in the Sky, they have spiritually athletic angels with 20/20 vision who were once convinced they’d be best-suited to G-d’s great inter-galactic mission. Instead, He selected the spiritually-disabled human race and entrusted us to conquer the Final Frontier. We don’t see things too clearly, are definitely hard of hearing (well, we don’t listen). Our spiritual mobility is severely limited and we have deficient intellectual focus.

And that’s why we’re best-suited to boldly go where no Seraph has gone before. Angels, perfect as they may be, would be out of sorts in the spiritually-gyrating, dank and disorienting environment we call home. We might fall and struggle back up, but we improvise and we win small battles that nobody “up there” has ever considered fighting.

G-d’s mission wasn’t designed for the sterile reality called Heaven, but for the rocky environment of Earth. And that’s the niche of the spiritually disabled.

About the Author
Rabbi Shishler together with his wife, Naomi and their eight children, runs Chabad of Strathavon in Sandton, South Africa. Rabbi Shishler is a popular teacher who regularly lectures around the globe. he hosts a weekly radio show in South Africa and is the rabbi of Facebook's largest Ask the Rabbi group.
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