On October 14, NASA announced that it had selected an experiment by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to participate in its Flight Opportunities program. However, what’s unique about this experiment is that the payload will include a human named Alan Stern.
Because of the experiment by SwRI being selected, Alan Stern will be granted the fantastic opportunity to perform his experiments in space instead of handling them remotely. This marks a paradigm shift in the way that space researchers can conduct their experiments.
Alan Stern is a planetary scientist and associate vice president at SwRI who often performs experiments in space remotely. According to Stern, doing things this way does work, but it can be challenging, expensive, and riddled with issues. This is why personally conducting the experiments in space will likely be a game-changer for many scientists.
Stern expressed his happiness for his upcoming opportunity in an article that he published on The Hill. He stated the following:
“This is a game-changing move by NASA. Why? Because it represents a normalizing of research in space to be more like other research disciplines, such as field geology, oceanography and volcanology, where researchers do their work themselves in the field, rather than designing, building and testing robots to go in their stead. The end result of this important evolution will be beneficial in many ways.”
Stern will be flying aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo to conduct his experiments. These include wearing and testing various biomedical sensors and operating a new camera designed to work in low-light conditions for astronomical imaging.
In the future, Stern believes that Congress should fund NASA to select other researchers to conduct their research in space. Stern says that doing this will progress space research from the 20th century into the 21st century.
Currently, NASA has not provided any specific dates for Stern’s flight.
Via The Hill