Scientists Gather to Discuss Use of Space Tourism Vehicles for Research

Special Guest Blogger Amalie Sinclair submitted this report on a workshop that brought together researchers and commercial space companies in San Francisco:

On Monday, the Universities Space Research Association held the Human-Tended Suborbital Science Workshop in conjunction with NASA Ames Research Center and the Personal Spaceflight Federation.

The small gathering – presided over by Ames Director Pete Worden – brought together researchers and space entrepreneurs to discuss how to use a new generation of suborbital vehicles being built by Virgin Galactic, XCOR, Armadillo Aerospace and other companies to conduct scientific research.

Sessions included not only an in-depth update for the innovative commercial space vehicles, but also presentations on the potentials within micro-gravity and high altitude scientific experiments. Taking part were commercial space development representatives and a group of scientists engaged in many areas, including:

  • atmospheric studies
  • the behavior of zero gravity liquids
  • the movement of waves in the solar chromosphere
  • the formation of planets from dust aggregates
  • cellular oxidation stresses
  • the effects of commercial space flight on the middle atmosphere.

For more information, Ken Davidian has posted detailed notes (PDF) on the discussions that took place.

The space enterprise designs were stunning and not only that they appear to be viable. Virgin Galactic having already sold over 300 tickets. Perhaps it will not be long before space tourism becomes an everyday occurrence.

But as always there are the larger implications, space science is a leading factor for a future world, and an underlying seriousness and intention was apparent at the event.

The commercial space endeavor will be fun, but it will be more that that, it will provide a massive support for space experimentation, obtaining the needed minutes of zero gravity that will advance the complex levels of human understanding.

We might perhaps say that helping unlock the secrets of the universe becomes yet another task for the innovative pioneers of the commercial space frontier, the pathways that will bring such this message of inspiration forward for the generations of a future world are already being thought about.

As one educator summed up, every seat on a space fight that you give to an educator will reach children everywhere, every passenger that goes into space will bring something remarkable back and all of what we do in space, for knowledge and for our earthly communities can be done together.