New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern celebrates a Guinness World Record certificate on July 19 at U.S. Postal Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Dan Afzal, U.S. Postal Service)
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, October 14, 2020 (SwRI PR) — A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) planetary scientist has been chosen to be among the first group to conduct NASA-funded science experiments while flying aboard a commercial spacecraft, the space agency announced today.
Dr. Alan Stern, planetary scientist and associate vice president of SwRI’s Space Science and Engineering Division, will fly aboard the Virgin Galactic commercial spacecraft called “SpaceShipTwo” on a yet unscheduled suborbital mission from the Spaceport America launch site in New Mexico.
“This is the first selection of a private-sector researcher to fly with NASA funding on commercial vehicles,” Stern said. He called the development a “potential sea change” in NASA-funded space research, opening the door to much more extensive experimentation in space by researchers. The NASA selection made today builds on SwRI’s long history of work and internal research funding to capitalize on the new generation of commercial suborbital vehicles like SpaceShipTwo.
“Our commercial suborbital space flight program dates back almost a decade,” said SwRI President and CEO Adam L. ...