31 July 2011

Press Release: Astronauts4Hire, Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Lab Partnership


July 31, 2011

Astronauts4Hire, Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Lab Partnership

Tampa, Florida – Astronauts4Hire is pleased to announce it has entered into a research and training partnership with the Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Laboratory (AGSOL). The two organizations recently signed a memorandum of understanding agreement focused on addressing the goals, challenges, and issues of astronaut training for private spaceflight.

A particular emphasis of the collaboration between Astronauts4Hire and AGSOL will be improving task performance under modified gravity conditions and mitigating space motion sickness, which has plagued almost three quarters of all astronauts. Representatives from Astronauts4Hire toured the AGSOL on July 14 and gained a firsthand perspective of the lab’s capabilities to support human sensorimotor control in unusual force environments.

Located at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, AGSOL researchers have spent the last three decades studying human spatial orientation and movement control under varying gravity conditions. "Our unique ability to contribute is our expertise in studying human motion sickness," says Janna Kaplan, who researches human adaptation to various conditions of spaceflight.

The lab is equipped to train for motion sickness adaptation as well as disorientation recovery in order to reduce discomfort and improve human productivity. James R. Lackner, Riklis, professor of physiology, founder, and co-director of AGSOL, added, "We probably have more experience in parabolic flight than any research group in the world, in terms of human factors. And we have the only functioning, full-scale artificial gravity environment operational in the world in the present time."

"Assessment of each individual’s susceptibility to motion sickness and training to help manage motion sickness are of vital importance to ensure quality mission assurance," said Astronauts4Hire President Brian Shiro. "With only 5 minutes of time in microgravity on suborbital flights, we cannot afford to waste time feeling ill or disoriented and potentially jeopardize the success of a client's payload."

Astronauts4Hire Chief Science Officer Dr. Luis Saraiva, who initiated the partnership with a visit to the AGSOL in April, also strongly endorsed the lab. "I am proud to be working with the Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Laboratory to advance understanding of human performance under the provocative conditions of microgravity. They are world renowned in their field and will bring invaluable know-how to our training program."

Astronauts4Hire and the AGSOL will next work together to identify, plan, and execute research studies and training protocols to improve preparation of astronauts for private spaceflight. This will include monitoring pre- and post-flight adaptation and developing operational procedures to maximize efficiency to ensure experiment success during missions.

20 July 2011

Press Release: Astronauts4Hire Members Complete Suborbital Scientist Training


July 20, 2011

Astronauts4Hire Members Complete Suborbital Scientist Training

Southampton, Pennsylvania – The era of private astronauts conducting commercial space research missions is almost here!  Eight Astronauts4Hire members have successfully completed the Suborbital Scientist Training Program at the National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center in Southampton, Pennsylvania.  Flight Members Christopher Altman, Kristine Ferrone, Jose Hurtado, Jason Reimuller, Brian Shiro, and Alli Taylor, along with Associate Member Jules Shiohira Ung, comprised the inaugural Astronauts4Hire class to undergo suborbital scientist training and certification.  Flight Member Mindy Howard also completed the course previously.

"Centrifuge and high altitude training are core training elements that NASTAR provided to our members," remarked Astronauts4Hire Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jason Reimuller.  "The very realistic mission simulation in NASTAR’s centrifuge taught us how to physiologically adapt to rapidly changing G-forces, enabling us to anticipate these stresses in flight, adapt to them, and stay focused on our research tasks." Flight Member Alli Taylor added, "Training at the NASTAR Center gave me confidence in what to expect and how to perform on suborbital flights."

The three-day NASTAR Suborbital Scientist course is designed to prepare researchers with the knowledge and skills to safely cope with the rigors of suborbital spaceflight. The highlight of the first day was a session in the NASTAR high-altitude chamber that simulated an ascent to 25,000 feet and allowed the trainees to experience the effects of oxygen-deprivation, or hypoxia, firsthand.  On the second day, G-tolerance flights in the NASTAR Phoenix STS-400 centrifuge subjected the trainees to maximum sustained loads of 3.5 times Earth’s gravity oriented up-and-down (eyeballs-down) and 6 times Earth’s gravity oriented front-to-back (eyeballs-in).  These flights trained the Astronauts4Hire members to recognize and mitigate the symptoms of gravity-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC).  The course culminated on the third day with centrifuge runs simulating the complete suborbital flight profile of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo vehicle.

The Astronauts4Hire trainees also completed a distraction and time management exercise to illustrate the need for planning and practice to ensure mission success during a short-duration spaceflight with limited working space and potentially stressful conditions. "The most important factor in any space mission is the team of people who work together to make it a success," reflected Flight Member Christopher Altman. "Working and training together as a team has been of invaluable experience to our professional capabilities to conduct research on future missions."

Going forward, Astronauts4Hire and NASTAR will collaborate to refine and further develop curricula to prepare future scientist crews. "The Astronauts4Hire are a committed and focused group of individuals," said Brienna Henwood, Director of Space Training and Research Programs at the NASTAR Center. "They understood the curriculum, completed Altitude Physiology, and executed proper techniques during all spaceflight launch and reentry phases of training. NASTAR Center is proud to add the eight Astonauts4Hire members to our growing list of prepared commercial spaceflight trainees."

11 July 2011

Press Release: Astronauts4Hire Members Complete Emergency & Sea Survival Training


July 11, 2011

Astronauts4Hire Members Complete Emergency & Sea Survival Training

Groton, Connecticut – Astronauts4Hire members have successfully completed Dunker, Emergency Egress, and Sea Survival training at Survival Systems USA in Groton, Connecticut.  These courses have prepared them with the knowledge and skills to safely cope with physical and psychological stresses encountered during emergency situations at sea. Flight Members Christopher Altman, Jason Reimuller, and Brian Shiro, along with Associate Member Jules Shiohira Ung, comprised the first Astronauts4Hire class to undergo these training certifications.

"We have learned how to appropriately prepare for and respond to onboard emergencies that require forced water landing, inverted underwater escape, and sustained survival at sea," said Flight Member Christopher Altman. Astronauts4Hire President Brian Shiro added, "I was extremely impressed by the expert capabilities of Survival Systems USA and can think of no better way to initiate Astronauts4Hire’s team training program."

Survival training is important for astronauts in order to prepare for possible emergency landings.  As more than two thirds of the Earth is covered by water, astronauts should prepare for water landing and survival scenarios.  While the risk of this happening is small for infrequent space travelers, it becomes more probable for professional astronauts undertaking multiple spaceflight missions. "Most spaceports launch spacecraft over water, and since ascent aborts comprise the vast majority of contingency scenarios, we can expect these incidents will result in a water landing," remarked Astronauts4Hire Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jason Reimuller. "In addition, there are many post-landing scenarios that mandate an unassisted emergency egress.  This is why we require egress training for all of our qualified astronauts."

The Dunker Training program covered emergency incidents, how to prepare for them, and how to survive them after they have occurred.  It included comprehensive academic modules and case studies to provide the proper context for hazards associated with aircraft or spacecraft in over-water situations.  The preparation also included familiarization with the rescue equipment and devices.  Astronauts4Hire members practiced brace positioning, breath hold, emergency breathing device use, orientation, and egress in the Shallow Water Egress Trainer  (SWET) and Modular Egress Training Simulator (METS) under a variety of scenarios with varying aircraft roll and weather conditions.  The Sea Survival program dealt with personal and group rescue techniques utilizing personal flotation, life rafts, signaling devices, and search and rescue equipment in an open water environment at sea.

Going forward, Astronauts4Hire and Survival Systems USA will collaborate to customize the courses to provide more specific spaceflight context. Survival Systems USA President Maria Hanna commented, "I was impressed by the vision of Astronauts4Hire in our initial discussions. Now, following the completion of their training with us, I am excited about the possibilities for the future – the development of customized academic modules to address capsule specific configurations and equipment, and the potential for the manufacture of another new simulator – a capsule simulator. It is initiatives such as these that will define the safety of the personnel and ultimately, the success of the industry."

05 July 2011

Press Release: Astronauts4Hire Supports the One Flag in Space Initiative


July 5, 2011

Astronauts4Hire Supports the One Flag in Space Initiative

Tampa, Florida – Astronauts4Hire proudly supports the "One Flag in Space" initiative by Blue Marble Space, a nonprofit organization devoted to enabling international unity through space exploration. Astronauts4Hire Flight Members will wear the Blue Marble emblem on their flight suits during training and flight activities beginning with our inaugural training class this July.

The historic Blue Marble image, captured by the Apollo 17 crew on December 7, 1972, is the first photograph of the full planet Earth taken by a human. It has become one of the most universally recognized symbols in the world—transcending national, political, ethnic, and religious boundaries. When shown alongside national flags on astronaut flight suits, the Blue Marble sends a universal message to present and future generations that, in space, humankind is working together for the benefit of all.

The Blue Marble symbol
"The Blue Marble symbol already has the support of several astronauts from the American, European and Korean space agencies," said Sanjoy Som, founder and Director of Blue Marble Space. "We are very excited to have the support of Astronauts4Hire, and are thrilled to be collaborating with one of the leaders who are revolutionizing spaceflight."

"Astronauts4Hire is an international organization dedicated to developing the world’s first private astronaut corps, with members representing 16 countries," remarked Astronauts4Hire President Brian Shiro. "Since we do not represent any single nation, the One Flag in Space initiative is aligned with one of A4H’s key values: space belongs to everyone."

This founding collaboration between Blue Marble Space and Astronauts4Hire serves as the keystone for a more active partnership between the two organizations. The Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, the scientific arm of Blue Marble Space which opened its doors in 2011, will actively seek NASA and NSF grants for basic and applied research. "The expertise A4H will bring together in microgravity environments will be invaluable for scientific research. We look forward to working together with A4H to align the scientific goals of experiments with the engineering requirements of microgravity flight," added Sanjoy Som.

03 July 2011

A4H Members Support Payloads on Final Shuttle Flight

After three decades, the Space Shuttle era will draw to a close as Space Shuttle Atlantis embarks on the STS-135 mission later this week. We are proud to announce that two A4H members have supported payload integration for experiments to be flown on the final Shuttle flight.

Luis Zea assembling hardware for STS-135
Luis Zea is part of a group currently at the Kennedy Space Center integrating several payloads on STS-135. These payloads comprise multiple scientific research objectives and experiments such as cell culture investigation, assessment of risk to biological integrity from the space environment, as well as the development of a new salmonella vaccine. Luis' job covers the life of a space-based research project from concept design, research & development, testing, documentation, integration, operations, all the way through to post-landing recovery and processing.

After this final Shuttle flight, he will continue working on projects planned to leave the planet on SpaceX spacecrafts, as well as Japanese and European transfer vehicles. Working at the intersection of industry, government, and academia as part of the BioServe Space Technologies team, Luis has immersed himself with a wide range of out-of-this-world projects with Principal Investigators from NASA, university and private research programs.

V.A. Zabala-Aliberto in the SSEP lab (©2011)
As she did in May 2011 during the STS-134 mission, A4H co-founder Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto will also work from the Kennedy Space Center during the STS-135 mission loading microgravity student experiments into experiment racks bound for the International Space Station through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). During their payload integration activities, Veronica Ann and the SSEP team will also provide education and outreach to the public via live streaming USTREAM broadcasts. When Atlantis lands at the end of July 2011, she will focus her attention on the extraction of the payloads, making observations of the experiments under the microscope, and shipping then them off to the students and other Principal Investigators from around the world.

Zabala-Aliberto, who has previously worked on microgravity payloads for students and nonprofits, is no stranger to the space community. She has spent the last decade educating and inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers through her work on the Mars Exploration Rovers, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, and Mars Express missions.

To commemorate Luis' and Veronica Ann's work supporting this historic mission, as well as A4H's capabilities for payload and experiment operation, we are launching a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook during the STS-135 mission and A4H's training activities to raise awareness of Astronauts4Hire.