Planetary scientist Alan Stern, who is also the principal scientist on the New Horizons mission, has been chosen to be the first scientist to fly on Virgin Galactic’s suborbital SpaceShipTwo, should it ever begin commercial flights.
One SwRI experiment on the just announced flight will involve Stern operating a former space shuttle and NASA F-18 low light level camera to determine how well space astronomical observations can be conducted. In addition, Stern will be fitted with instrumentation that continuously monitors human vital signs from just before the two-hour flight until after its landing as a biomedical experiment. The results of both experiments will be published.
I hope it happens, but personally I have great doubts. We now have more than fifteen years of similar big announcements about what Virgin Galactic will do with its suborbital spaceship, with nothing to show for it. Right now I see these stories as mere fodder by people like Richard Branson to push up the stock’s price so he can make more money selling it as he eases his way out of the company.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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