Alan Stern, associate vice president of the space science and engineering division at Southwest Research Institute, has been selected to join a scientific team that will fly aboard a Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo vehicle to carry out NASA-backed experiments.
The suborbital mission will mark Stern's first travel into space and give him the opportunity to conduct astronomical research with the use of a former space shuttle and an F-18 camera technology, SwRI said Thursday.
SwRI added the planetary scientist will be subject to biomedical experiment via a wearable vital sign monitoring instrument designed to record his body functions from the beginning of the two-hour flight through the landing completion.
"This is the first selection of a private-sector researcher to fly with NASA funding on commercial vehicles," Stern noted, adding that the mission could open up opportunities for the researcher community and government-sponsored studies.
The agency updated solicitation guidelines for its Tech Flights program to allow “human-tended“ experimentation inside commercially built spaceships.