Eddie Ndopu is trying to be the first person with a disability to travel to space—and MTV is documenting the entire thing.
The 27-year-old South African activist was born with spinal muscular atrophy. While he was only supposed to live five years, he exceeded that with flying colors, becoming the first person with a disability to earn a master’s degree from Oxford and spending over a decade advocating for the rights of disabled young folks.
“I want people to be powerful, the very best versions of themselves, everything their imagination desires, beyond the ramp, beyond compliance,” Ndopu said. “I want to open up talk about the emotional and personal, so we can experience the totality of our humanity.”
He wants to travel to space and deliver a message from above Earth to the U.N. General Assembly, sending “a powerful message on behalf of young people everywhere who have ever felt excluded by society.”
“I want to give credence to the idea of leaving nobody behind,” he said. “I’m not just talking about ramps, braille, and sign language. This is also about giving people with disabilities access to things like joy, love, and intimacy.”
While Ndopu’s condition leaves him very vulnerable to health complications, he said he is willing to take the chance because the mission is bigger than himself. He has been working with New York-based Spinal Muscular Atrophy specialists to undergo cutting-edge therapies to prepare for his journey.
“There is a very real risk that I may not survive the voyage,” he said. “I am not scared of the launch into space; I am scared of what will happen if I don’t see this through.”
MTV cameras will follow him as he finds an aerospace company to facilitate the mission and chronicle his thoughts and emotions as the launch comes up. The project was announced ahead of International Day of Persons With Disabilities on Dec. 3.
Production on the series is set to begin in 2019.