NASTAR: Day 0 – Part 1

8 05 2011

Well, it’s 2:00 p.m. local time in San Francisco International Airport, and reality is starting to set in: After what amounts to 15 years of anticipation, I’m headed out to engage in FAA-certified civilian scientist-astronaut training at the NASTAR Center (reviewed in my previous post here)!

After a grueling morning – I was awakened well before I’d been intending with what can only be described as heinous bout of food poisoning – I managed to blearily finish packing and head out to the Las Vegas airport (with more than a little assistance from my outstanding wife).

It hasn’t been the most enjoyable way to travel so far, mind you, but I wasn’t about to let anything derail this outing.

In any event, with the first leg of the trip in the rear-view mirror and with the help of an electrolyte-stuffed commercial fitness drink, my wits are returning to me… and the thrill is rising.

Now, using logic only a delirious flight controller may be able to understand, I had to travel west to San Francisco in order to backtrack and head over to Pennsylvania.  (I suspect it has something to do with the availability of long-range flights, but still…).  However, despite the irrationality of the route, this waystation seems strangely fitting.

Looking around, I realized that SFO has a permanent association in my mind with the annual American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, which is always held in San Francisco and was the site of my first research presentations on englacial hydrodynamics.

In essence, my decision to engage in professional field science all started here.  It’s only right that I tip my hat on the way by.

I board in about an hour.  More to follow…

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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…








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