T-minus 1 week: Aiming for NASTAR

2 05 2011

The NASTAR Center. (Credit: NASTAR)

I’m coming up on a positively Everest-ian milestone in my ongoing quest to become a commercial astronaut, and it’s been a long time coming:  Astronaut training.

Supported by my spaceflight consulting firm, Astrowright Spaceflight Consulting LLC, I’m heading out in a week to attend highly specialized training offered by the only FAA-certified civilian spaceflight training outfit around.

The location?  Philadelphia, PA, at the National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center.

NASTAR simulator-centrifuge. (Credit: NASTAR)

Among the NASTAR Center’s many aerospace services, not only do they provide generalized spaceflight training for the many civilian tourist “spaceflight participants” who are planning sub-orbital jaunts in the next couple of years, (e.g., on Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft,) but they also offer specific sub-orbital scientist training designed to prepare researchers to withstand the forces and avoid the distractions of spaceflight so that they can do what they’ve been wanting to do for (at least in my case) an entire career:

Perform quality science off-world.

For a taste of what the training is like, (which was developed in part by SwRI and NSRC civilian scientist-astronaut forerunner Dr. Alan Stern,) check out this excellent article written by Space.com contributor Clara Moskowitz, where she chronicles her experiences attending the program last October.

In addition to more traditional classroom instruction, the program involves thrilling (to me, anyway) “right stuff” rigors, such as oxygen deprivation training, high g-force (centrifuge) simulations of spacecraft launch and re-entry, and an array of supplemental components.

Needless to say, this training will help to round out our firm’s technical expertise so that we can begin offering expanded service beyond our current pre-flight fitness training and radiation dosimetry services into full-fledged (atmospheric) microgravity and sub-orbital payload specialist territory.

Many thanks to the family and friends that have helped me to get to this point, and it goes without saying that I’ll be blogging like a maniac as I head through the program.  Expect more on this in about a week.

T-minus 168 hours and counting…





A love of teaching

24 10 2010

Entry sign outside of CSN's Cheyenne Campus.

-Just a post on a personal note this morning.  I’ve been filling in as a part-time geology lab instructor at the College of Southern Nevada for the past two years.  Now, with a few semesters behind me, I find myself pleasantly surprised by what I (admittedly) was interested in as more of a resume-booster than as a potential career.

While I love the stimulation of technical work and the satisfaction of fieldwork, (hence my day job,) I have to admit that I’m finding that teaching provides something unique: a sense of deep fulfillment.

You never get to see an expression of understanding wash over an inoperative computer program’s face when you explain something to it in a new way.  You don’t receive a sense of genuine appreciation from data when you fully invest yourself in taking scientific measurements.  In contrast, the interaction between students and an instructor (at least in my experience so far) is very, very rewarding.

Lab practical midterm setup before the students arrived.

Quite frankly, despite the fact that I currently work 10-hour days out of town, and it’s an hour drive (dash) before the three-hour lab after work, I always feel better after teaching a class than I did before I arrived.  Sure, it’s made for a 16-hour workday, but I actually feel more energized and calmer.  More at peace.

That has to mean something.

Teaching, at least at the college level, is much different than anything else I do.  I genuinely love the material, and with very few exceptions (maybe I’ve just been lucky so far) all of my students respond to that enthusiasm and engage in the class.  And there’s the lingering sense that you’re making a difference in a very visceral way.

Sure, things you do at work change the way things work, affect the course of companies and employees, and maybe it even reaches farther than that.  But with teaching, the effect is immediate.  You know you’re affecting lives.  You can see it.  In class, something you say has at least the possibility of sparking a lifelong interest or changing (via degree/major/etc.,)  the course of a person’s life.  -Inspiring the next generation.

Plus, me being me, I always try and weave in a little planetary/space science to keep the students interested.  (Perhaps in the future I’ll be able to bring some practical space exploration experience back to the classroom…)

Well, I think that’s it.  While I’m not ready to leave my fieldwork and industry work behind just yet, I love teaching.

-I think it’s a feeling that will only grow with time.





Astrowright Academy and the Classroom of Tomorrow

23 08 2010

Well, just a quick note this morning.  Today is my first day of class as a graduate student in the University of North Dakota’s School of Aerospace Sciences Department of Space Studies program.

So, you could say that my advanced academic push toward becoming an astrowright has begun.  -And in true 21st Century form, as I commute to work, I’ll actually be “attending” a lecture.

University of North Dakota SpSt 541 class lecture #2. Credit: Me.

Here goes nothing.








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