Future SwRI astronauts stomp on the accelerator

26 08 2011

SwRI's suborbital science mission patch. (Credit: SwRI)

A quick note today on the further development of the worlds’ first commercial scientist-astronauts!  The Southwest Research Institute‘s (SwRI) suborbital research program, after its stunning announcement last spring of the purchase of several research seats on upcoming suborbital spaceflights, is showing no signs of slowing.

Recently, after their three commercial scientist-astronauts-in-training, (specifically termed payload specialists,) completed basic astronaut training, they announced the release of their project mission patch (at left).

I’m not sure if anyone else feels the same way, but I’ll be brave enough to admit that something as technically irrelevant as a patch can make an endeavor feel suddenly very real.

According to their recent statements, the team is moving out of the phase of training and the construction of their spaceflight experiments to fine-tuning their payloads and integrating them with future spacecraft.  With SwRI and Dr. Alan Stern leading the way, the advent of commercial civilian scientist-astronauts is upon us, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  I hope to follow right behind.

Ad astra, SwRI!

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Scientists strike back at climate naysayers

8 05 2010

Bookworm George McFly finally standing up to Biff - Back to the Future. Credit: Universal Pictures

Here it is – the long-awaited left hook I wasn’t sure would ever happen.  Yesterday, against the continual volley of naysayer attacks, the journal Science published an open letter from a small army of scientists coming to the defense of current climate change research.

While there is much to engender skepticism these days, what with ClimateGate, Al Gore, and pseudoscience being slung around by politicians on all sides like fish in Pike Place… Sound science is still underneath it all.

No, no – don’t get me wrong.  Doomsayers are synonymous with ulterior motives in my book, so I don’t think the sky is falling.  I think farmers should be worried.  That’s quite different.  An interview I gave a while back lays out what I feel are quite “centrist” views, if a science-type can even claim to be climatologically centrist.

However, beneath all the screaming about vanishing polar caps and the death of small businesses at the merciless hands of carbon cap-and-trade, the idea that human activity can affect planetary systems has something to it.  There would be nearly no free oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere at all if it weren’t for biological activity.  -That’s right- for example, check out banded iron formations and eroded pyrite for evidence of a reducing atmosphere and the knowledge that the biggest climate change this planet has experienced was a result of life upon it.

So, good on ya’, National Academy of Sciences scientists who’ve taken up the challenge and thrown the gauntlet back.  I’m not sure how much good will ultimately come of it, but I have to say I’m impressed at the effort.








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