The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST) has released version 1.0 of its Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety.

The recommendations cover the safety of flight crew and spaceflight participants and include the design, manufacturing, and operations of suborbital and orbital launch and reentry vehicles. The recommendations assume that any orbital vehicle will stay in orbit for a maximum of 2 weeks and return to Earth in under 24 hours if necessary. Orbital rendezvous and docking, flights longer than 2 weeks, EVA, and flights beyond Earth orbit may be addressed in future versions.

To develop the recommendations FAA-AST reviewed existing standards, including those of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety. The FAA was guided primarily by NASA requirements for the Commercial Crew Program.

The goal is to ensure that occupant safety is considered throughout the lifecycle of a spaceflight system and that occupants are not exposed to avoidable risks. The document does not aim to establish a single level of risk for commercial human spaceflight. The FAA believes that such a standard might inadvertently limit innovation. Given the variety of commercial spaceflight activities that are likely to take place in the future, with differing destinations, purposes, and architectures, the FAA believes that differing levels of risk acceptance may be appropriate.

The document establishes level of care for occupants, for flight crew performing safety-critical operations, and for emergency situations.

The document does not include any medical criteria that would limit who should fly in space as a spaceflight participant. Medical consultation is recommended to inform spaceflight participants of risks and ensure they will not be a danger to other occupants, but FAA believes spaceflight participants should be free to make their own decisions about individual risk.

The current document focuses on avoiding injuries or fatalities, rather than long-term health effects. For that reason, exposure to ionizing-radiation is not included.

The complete recommendations can be downloaded here.

Written by Astro1 on September 16th, 2014 , Citizen Exploration, Space Medicine and Safety

James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge 3D documentary opens in theaters on Friday, 8 August.

The documentary tells the story of Cameron’s voyage to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on Earth.

One little-known fact about Cameron’s Deep Challenge project is that two filmmakers died in a helicopter accident during the production — another indicator of the hazards of working at sea. This is comparable to the three astronauts who died during the Apollo program.

Rumor says that James Cameron is one of two citizen explorers who have agreed to pay Space Adventures $150 million apiece for a circumlunar flight on a Russian Soyuz, becoming the first humans to visit the Moon since Apollo 17.

Space Adventures lunar expedition vehicle fires engines on its way to the Moon

Written by Astro1 on August 2nd, 2014 , Citizen Exploration, Oceanography

The British Interplanetary Society is presenting “The Contested Future of Space Tourism,” a lecture by Mark Johnson, a graduate student in Science and Technology Studies at the University of York.

Unfortunately, the program misrepresents what citizen space exploration (or “space tourism”) is about. The announcement states:

“Space tourism”, “personal spaceflight” and “citizen space exploration” have also been suggested as alternative rubrics, each of which evokes a different form of this future. Irrespective of terminology, this trend denotes space travel for recreational or leisure purposes, rather than scientific, exploratory, communication or military purposes.

According to the World Tourism Organization, tourism is “traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes [emphasis added].”

If tourism were limited to leisure and recreation, business tourism would be an oxymoron, rather than a lucrative industry.

Unfortunately, some people have taken to using “space tourism” in a much more restrictive sense, to indicate what they believe to be frivolous activities, in contrast to “real” exploration. That’s why we strongly prefer the term “citizen space exploration.”

Citizen space exploration refers to any space exploration that is undertaken by private citizens, rather than government employees or their agents. Some citizen space exploration may be undertaken for recreation or leisure purposes, but by no means all.

Citizen space explorers such as Richard Garriott and Greg Olsen have performed scientific experiments aboard the International Space Station and have been honored by the Explorers Club. Anousheh Ansari blogged from ISS. To say their expeditions were not for scientific, exploratory, or communication purposes is clearly wrong.

Citizens in Space exists to promote citizen science in space. We were the first customer to sign up for flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft. We are collaborating with both citizen scientists and professional researchers to fly a variety of experiments. We have already been involved in the ground-based testing of biomedical devices which may be used by future space travelers.

We are hardly alone. The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is attended by hundreds of scientists and engineers who are planning similar experiments. We expect that interest in suborbital experiments will grow in the future.

If the British Interplanetary Society wants to “contest” the future of citizen space exploration, it should do so on the basis of fact, not misinformation or misunderstanding.

Written by Astro1 on April 24th, 2014 , Citizen Exploration

This summer, we invited Popular Science editor-in-chief Jacob Ward to join us for the current phase of our citizen-astronaut training. The resulting story, Trials and Tribulations of Space School, appears in the January issue of Popular Science, which is on the newsstands now.

“Until this point, space, the final frontier, existed almost as an abstraction for most of us,” Jacob writes. “Now it is within reach. The democratization of space has arrived.”

The story is also available online here.

Written by Astro1 on December 18th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Citizens in Space

Citizen astronaut Richard Garriott (son of Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott) gave a stirring talk at the South By SouthWest music, film, and digital media festival last year. The talk is now available on YouTube.

Written by Astro1 on November 16th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

NASA astronaut Frank Borman

USA Today has published a misleading article on what it takes to become an astronaut.

USA Today equates becoming an astronaut with applying to NASA. For anyone planning an astronaut career today, that advice is woefully outdated, like suggesting that anyone who wants to go to America needs to sign up with Columbus. The great majority of astronauts in the next decade will not work for NASA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on October 7th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

Burt Rutan has some reflections on the history of aviation with relevance to space travel:

In 1908 only ten people had flown airplanes. Then… Wilbur Wright flew his airplane in Europe… By 1912 many thousands of pilots were flying hundreds of airplane types in 39 countries. One organization alone (the Aero Club of France) had certified 2,000 pilots and recorded 10,000 passengers. By 1912 the European airplane industry had grown to 45 million dollars (nearly a billion dollars today) and three shops each had delivered more than 500 aircraft.

Compare that to 541 humans, at last count, who have flown in space: a feat that took more than 50 years to accomplish.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on September 18th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

Celebrity astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t think much of citizen space exploration. He delivers a three-minute broadside against it in this video by Business Insider.

“Private enterprise will not ever lead a space frontier,” Tyson declares, “not because I don’t want them to, but my read of history tells me they can’t, it’s not possible. Space is dangerous, it’s expensive. There are unquantified risks. Combine all of those under one umbrella; you cannot establish a free-market capitalization of that enterprise….

“Those that are the kinds of frontiers that the history of governments have undertaken. The first Europeans to the New World were not the Dutch East India Trading Company. It was governments funding government missions. Columbus drew the maps…”

Dr. Tyson needs to read some history books. His knowledge of Christopher Columbus, and exploration in general, seems to be based the myths told in old high-school textbooks. Columbus was not the first European to sail to the New World. Queen Isabella did not hock the crown jewels to finance Columbus. His expedition was funded by Italian bankers.

Furthermore, Columbus’s maps were terrible. He thought the world was about 18,000 miles in circumference. Most educated people believed it was about 24,000 miles. That figure had been known since the time of the ancient Greeks. Columbus did his math wrong. Any educated person could have shown that, but Columbus simply refused to admit he was wrong. He failed in his mission to reach the East Indies, and he would have perished, along with his entire crew, if they hadn’t chanced upon a completely unexpected continent where they could rest and reprovision. What does that story tell us about citizen space exploration?

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Written by Astro1 on September 2nd, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

As of January 2013, none of the research submersibles supported by the US government were operational, according to Newsweek. Funding for the NOAA Undersea Research Program (NURP) was zeroed in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.

In May, however, we saw two homebuilt submersibles at Maker Faire in San Mateo. As government funding for ocean exploration disappears, citizen science may take over. Perhaps this is a portent for the future of space exploration?

maker subs: homemade submersibles at Maker Faire

Written by Astro1 on August 20th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

Renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle gives this defense of ocean exploration. The space community should also pay attention.

Dr. Earle is the former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and currently explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society. She has led more than 60 research expeditions and spent over 7,000 hours underwater. Dr. Earle has set women’s depth records in a hard-shell diving suit (1,250 feet) and a submersible (3,300 feet), as well as leading a team of female researchers during an extended underwater stay in the Tektite II habitat in 1970.

No one denies that Sylvia Earle is an explorer.

Yet, there are people in the space community who insist that astronauts (especially citizen astronauts) are not explorers. Ben McGee discussed this in his recent treatise. “Particularly amongst the old guard of space science,” McGee says, “‘exploration’ is reserved for those pushing the frontier in higher orbits, cislunar space, trips to near-Earth asteroids, Mars, and beyond.” In other words, almost no one.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on August 20th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration Tags:

[Note: Somehow, this article was accidentally posted under June, even though it's really from August. Because several people have already linked to it, we've left a copy at this location, as well as the correct location here.]

Renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle gives this defense of ocean exploration. The space community should also pay attention.

Dr. Earle is the former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and currently explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society. She has led more than 60 research expeditions and spent over 7,000 hours underwater. Dr. Earle has set women’s depth records in a hard-shell diving suit (1,250 feet) and a submersible (3,300 feet), as well as leading a team of female researchers during an extended underwater stay in the Tektite II habitat in 1970.

No one denies that Sylvia Earle is an explorer.

Yet, there are people in the space community who insist that astronauts (especially citizen astronauts) are not explorers. Ben McGee discussed this in his recent treatise. “Particularly amongst the old guard of space science,” McGee says, “‘exploration’ is reserved for those pushing the frontier in higher orbits, cislunar space, trips to near-Earth asteroids, Mars, and beyond.” In other words, almost no one.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on June 22nd, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Uncategorized Tags:

A British radio journalist who goes by the moniker of “Radio Kate” or “Space Kate” has resurrected the old canard that “suborbital spaceflight isn’t exploration.”

Radio/Space Kate has been twittering up a storm. According to R/S Kate, international cooperation (exemplified by the European Space Agency) is the best way to explore space. Individual nations are not up to the task, and private space exploration is simply defined away. “Going suborbital is not new, it is not exploration,” according to Kate. “Exploration is about unknown and unfamiliar regions.”

And suborbital space is not unfamiliar or unknown, according to Kate.

Why Kate considers suborbital space to be familiar is unknown. It’s safe to say she has never been there. The number of astronauts who have flown suborbitally is quite small. Eight pilots were awarded suborbital astronaut wings in the X-15 program. Two astronauts flew suborbital flights in Project Mercury. Two more flew SpaceShip One. At the moment, that’s it. Only 12 human beings have flown suborbital flights — the same number who have walked on the surface of the Moon.

Yet, the Moon is considered to be unexplored while suborbital space is familiar territory? The scientists who discovered upper-atmosphere phenomena such as blue jets, ELFs, and sprites, all of which were unknown just a few years ago, would surely disagree.

How anyone can call a region which it’s been visited by only 12 human beings “familiar” is a mystery. Suborbital space makes the summit of Mt. Everest look like Times Square.

It’s also strange that Radio/Space Kate considers ESA a model for future space exploration. The European Space Agency has not sent astronauts anywhere but the International Space Station — which is more familiar, at this point, than suborbital space. So, if we accepted Kate’s definition, we would have to say that ESA astronauts have never explored space.

The exploration community, of course, does not use that definition. The Explorers Club recently honored citizen space explorer Greg Olsen, who visited ISS in 2005, in their Exploring Legends series.

The Explorers Club is an old, prestigious organization. Founded in 1904, it promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences. Club members have been responsible for an illustrious series of firsts, including the first explorers to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the deepest point in the ocean, and first to the surface of the moon.

Yet, the Explorers Club does not limit its membership to those who accomplish “firsts,” nor does it insist that all exploration must occur in remote, unknown, and unfamiliar locations. To quote the Club’s website:

Many of our members have contributed to field science and exploration in much less remote and dangerous ways. A field study of butterflies here in New York or recording bird migration data on the nearby Long Island seashore qualifies you for membership just as much as collecting data from the top of the highest peaks or the oceans’ deepest depths.

We spoke to a former president of the Explorers Club not too long ago. He did not express the slightest doubt that suborbital spaceflight was exploration.

We’re sure the Explorers Club will welcome a great many citizen space explorers in the next few years. Almost all of them will be suborbital explorers. Sorry about that, Kate.

Written by Astro1 on May 30th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

The Astronomer Royal is a peculiar British position with no official duties and an salary of £100 per year, which makes him somewhat less important than the royal gardener. Nevertheless, the Astronomer Royal tends to get quoted in the press with some frequency,because of his impressive-sounding title.

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Written by Astro1 on May 28th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

Northrop Grumman lunar lander concept for Golden Spike Corporation

Northrop Grumman has completed a feasibility study of commercial lunar lander configurations for the Colorado-based Golden Spike Company. Part of the study includes a novel low-mass ascent stage concept, which Northrop Grumman calls Pumpkin.

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Written by Astro1 on May 8th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Commercial Space (General)

International Space Station (ISS)

Actress/singer Sarah Brightman is still a cosmonaut in training, but her plans to visit the International Space Station may be in peril, according to an article published by RIA Novosti.

The decision is said to rest in the hands of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and NASA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on March 16th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

Two planets: Venus and Mars from NASA images

Dennis Tito’s Inspiration Mars project has attracted some community feedback.

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Written by Astro1 on March 14th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

(Austin) Richard Garriott de Cayeaux presented an interesting chart during his talk on “The New Golden Age of Space Exploration” at South by Southwest. It shows the number of humans who have been sent into space by various space agencies:

NASA — 332
RFSA — 107
ESA — 33
CSA — 9
JAXA — 8
Space Adventures — 7
China — 6
Bulgaria — 2
Others — 19

The sixth most successful space agency, by this measure, is a private company: Space Adventures. Note that China is number seven. If suborbital companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace are successful, they may quickly exceed the 332 astronauts who have been flown by NASA.

Yet, alarmists still worry that China is about to “overtake the United States” in space, by copying projects which the United States and the Soviet Union accomplished 40 years ago.

Written by Astro1 on March 11th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Space Adventures

Inspiration Mars Foundation logo

Dennis Tito, the first citizen space explorer to visit the International Space Station, has created the Inspiration Mars Foundation to raise funds for an even more dramatic mission: a human flyby of the planet Mars.

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Written by Astro1 on February 27th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

Citizen space explorers and space entrepreneurs will appear at the prestigious South By Southwest (SxSW) film, music, and interactive-media festival, which takes place in Austin next month.

A panel on “Crowd-sourcing the Space Frontier” will include Anousheh Ansari, who visited the International Space Station in 2006 and was name sponsor for the Ansari X-Prize in 2001, and Citizens in Space project manager and citizen-astronaut candidate Edward Wright.

Also participating on the panel will be NASA Open Innovation Program manager Christopher Gentry and Darlene Damm, founder and co-president of DIY Rockets. The panel will run from 11:00 am to noon on Saturday, March 9.

Richard Garriott de Cayeux, who visited the International Space Station in 2008, will speak on “The New Golden Age of Spaceflight” at 11:00 Monday, March 11. Garriott de Cayeux is also vice-chairman of Space Adventures, which markets flights to the International Space Station.

Also on Saturday will be a keynote address by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, at 2:00 PM.

South by Southwest attracts over 32,000 people each year. Admission to these talks will require an Interactive, Gold, or Platinum Badge. Badges are still available at walkup rates of $1150, $1350, or $1595. (Sorry, we do not have any free or discount passes to hand out.)

Citizen space explorer Anousheh Ansari aboard the International Space Station

Anousheh Ansari aboard the International Space Station

Written by Astro1 on February 15th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Space Adventures, SpaceX

The Moon, photographed from Space Shuttle Columbia on STS-107

The photo above shows a sight that can only be seen from space: The Moon against a black sky, with the Earth in daylight. Fewer than .00001% of the world’s population have had the opportunity to see this sight. That number will increase dramatically in the next few years, when suborbital spaceflight becomes commercially available.

At first glance, the Moon appears oddly dark. We think of the Moon as being quite bright, almost pure white. That’s because we’re used to viewing the Moon at night when our eyes are dark adapted. Of course, the Moon isn’t really white, or light in color, at all. The observations and photos taken by the Apollo astronauts, the samples they brought back, all prove that. Viewed alongside the oceans and clouds of Earth, the Moon shows its true color in this photograph.

The Moon also appears unusually small in this photo. That is due to the well-known Moon illusion, or rather the lack of a Moon illusion. When we observe the Moon in the night sky, our brains trick us into seeing the Moon as larger than it really is. That doesn’t happen when you look at a photograph of the Moon. The photo above is optically accurate, but the photo below has been altered to show the scene as you might actually perceive it from space, due to the Moon illusion:

Simulated Moon illusion

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Written by Astro1 on February 2nd, 2013 , Astronomy, Citizen Exploration

Astronauts 4 Hire is a private company that intends to provide a pool of trained payload specialists for suborbital spaceflights. The following video shows some of their current training activities.

Written by Astro1 on January 27th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Commercial Space (General)

The following video is a recent interview with Dr. Helen Sharman, who became Britain’s first astronaut and the first woman to visit the Mir space station in 1991. Dr. Sharman spent 8 days in space, launching aboard the Soyuz TM-12 capsule on 18 May 1991 and returning aboard Soyuz TM-11 on 26 May 1991. (Note: This is a lengthy interview, running for a bit over one hour.)

Dr. Helen Sharman was a 26-year-old researcher studying flavor chemistry for the Mars candy company when she applied for Project Juno in 1989.

Project Juno was the first step in a gradual transition from the old paradigm of government space programs to the new paradigm of citizen space exploration. The project, which gegan in 1989, was a joint venture between the Russian government (which was seeking to reach out to the West as part of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost) and a consortium of private sponsors including British Aerospace, Memorex, Interflora, and ITV. By the time the flight occurred in 1991, the Russian government had taken a larger role than expected due to the consortium’s failure to raise the full amount of money that was anticipated.

One vestige of the old government paradigm can be seen in the way the astronaut candidates were treated: e.g., being involuntarily sequestered in a Russian hospital for two weeks while redundant medical tests were performed. Space medicine is an indispensable discipline which plays a necessary role in ensuring the safety of human spaceflight, but the amount of power given to flight surgeons in government space programs has been a frequent source of conflict.

Sharman and her backup, British Army Major Timothy Mace, were required to spend 18 months in Russia training for the spaceflight. This was later reduced to six months for clients of Space Adventures, which has sent citizen explorers to the International Space Station eight times since 2001.

Space Adventures has managed to wring more concessions out of the Russian Space Agency than the Juno consortium did, but those are still half measures. Truly commercial spaceflight depends on the development of commercial vehicles, which is still in progress.

Another portion of the interview worth noting is Dr. Sharman’s description of the landing incident. Such incidents have been fairly common in the Soyuz program; they are one of several data points which disprove the myth that Soyuz, unlike Shuttle, has had a 100% safety record.

Written by Astro1 on January 27th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration

AXE plans to do training for its citizen astronauts in Orlando, Florida. They’ve started running this commercial to give contest applicants a taste of what’s in store.

It appears that AXE’s advertising department needs a good technical editor, though. The L-39 Albatros is strictly a subsonic airplane.

The space camp, called the Axe Apollo Space Academy, will take place in December of 2013, according to a press release from XCOR Aerospace. 100 finalists will take part, competing for a chance to win one of 21 flights. (The 22nd flight will be awarded early this year, in a drawing to take place after the Super Bowl on February 3.

Written by Astro1 on January 11th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, XCOR Aerospace

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin joined AXE, a personal-grooming brand of Unilever, to announce one of the largest spaceflight contests ever. The Apollo Space Sweepstakes, also known as the AXE Apollo Space Academy, is a worldwide contest that will select 22 citizen astronauts to fly into space on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft.

“Space travel for everyone is the next frontier in the human experience,” said Aldrin, lunar-module pilot for the historic Apollo 11 mission. “I’m thrilled that AXE is giving the young people of today such an extraordinary opportunity to experience some of what I’ve encountered in space.”

AXE, which is known as LYNX in some parts of the world, secured 22 seats aboard the namesake spacecraft through Space Expedition Corporation.

AXE global vice president Tomas Marcenaro said, “The AXE Apollo launch is the biggest and most ambitious in the AXE brand’s 30 year history. For the first time, we’re simultaneously launching one global competition in over 60 countries offering millions of people the opportunity to win the most epic prize on earth: a trip to space Yes, actual space.”

“There’s no bigger hero than an astronaut,” AXE said, “so AXE is giving fans a chance to experience an adventure unlike any other.”

Astronaut candidates can sign up between now and February 3 at AXEApollo.com. Contest rules and terms vary from country to country.

Written by Astro1 on January 9th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, XCOR Aerospace