Category Archives: Space participation

Two new “Citizen-astronaut” candidates announced

An announcement from Citizens in Space:

New Citizen Astronaut Candidates Announced
Two from Texas will fly as payload operators on XCOR Lynx spaceplane

(Space Center Houston, Feb. 8, 2010) – Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, announced two astronaut candidates at the Space Exploration Educators Conference, which took place here today.

Citizen-astronaut candidate Maureen Adams, who has been in training for three years, announced the new additions.

“As a citizen of Texas, I take special pride in making this announcement,” Adams said. “Today we are expanding our astronaut corps to four, as Michael Johnson and Edward Wright, both from Texas, join our training program.”

Michael Johnson is a founding member and executive director of the North American Aerotech Academy, a non-profit organization that provides aviation-based STEM education to schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including four-year aviation academies at Irving High School and DeSoto High School. Johnson is a single- and multi-engine commercial pilot, instrument ground instructor, and type-rated captain on the Cessna Citation jet aircraft.

Johnson also provides STEM-based afterschool programs and summer camps, most recently teaching the Hot Roc STEM camp at Cedar Valley College in Lancaster, Texas that included a on-site mission-control room and the construction and launch of over 300 rockets. He is currently pursuing an Executive MBA degree at the University of Texas at Dallas and serves in the Texas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol as a Aerospace Officer with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

Edward Wright is the chairman of the United States Rocket Academy and project manager for Citizens in Space. He brings almost 30 years of experience in the computer, aviation, and space industries. In the past, he developed the first Space Enterprise Symposium and founded X-Rocket, LLC.

“This is an important step in the development of our program,” said Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.), training director for Citizens in Space and another citizen-astronaut candidate. “Citizens in Space has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx spaceplane, which is expected to enter operational service in 2014. We will be flying over 100 citizen-science experiments and training 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators.

“The individuals named today provide the right mix of skills to help us develop our training program, which will ensure that our current and future astronauts are able to fly safely and perform effectively as payload operators.

As a veteran military aviator and future astronaut, I am well aware of the risks involved in this sort of undertaking and the tragedies that can occur when things go wrong. The United States Rocket Academy is dedicated to providing the highest standard of training to minimize those risks.”

“Spaceflight is an inherently risky activity,” Wright said. “Safety is an ethical matter. I have seen too many friends die in aircraft accidents. I did not feel that I could ask people to participate in this program and accept the risks unless I was willing to do so myself.”

“Citizen astronauts will fly as payload operators, not just space tourists,” Johnson said. “This means that a higher standard of training is necessary.”

Adams, Heck, Johnson, and Wright are pathfinders for a larger training program. The “first four” will participate in training activities at several locations this summer. Training will expand next year as Citizens in Space seeks to fill out all ten astronaut slots.

Team of amateur and professional astronomers creates beautiful galaxy portrait

A collaboration between an amateur and a professional astronomer creates a grand image of a spiral galaxy using a mosaic of Hubble images:

February 5, 2013: Working with astronomical image processors at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., renowned astrophotographer Robert Gendler has taken science data from the Hubble Space Telescope archive and combined it with his own ground-based observations to assemble a photo illustration of the magnificent spiral galaxy M106.

Gendler retrieved archival Hubble images of M106 to assemble a mosaic of the center of the galaxy. He then used his own and fellow astrophotographer Jay GaBany’s observations of M106 to combine with the Hubble data in areas where there was less coverage, and finally, to fill in the holes and gaps where no Hubble data existed.


Citizen science – recent activity at four projects

I often talk here about the proliferation of citizen science projects. I thought I would scan the blogs of four space related projects at Zooniverse and see what their blogs are talking about these days.

* Planet Hunters –  In this project, participants scan data from the Kepler  space observatory to look for a drop in the brightness of a star when a planet orbits in front of it as seen from our point of view.

What factors impact transit shape – Planet Hunters blog – This post discusses an effort to make simulated transits look more like the real ones.

2012_Transit_of_Venus_from_SFTransit of Venus – Image credit Wikipedia

* Galaxy Zoo – With millions of galaxies to classify, this project takes advantage of the human powers of pattern recognition and lets participants decide into which category a galaxy should go according to its shape and features.

Spiral Galaxies and the Future of Citizen Science: a Live Chat – Galaxy Zoo blog – An online chat show brings “Some of the Galaxy Zoo Science Team” together to “talk about a recent paper on measuring spiral arm features via a computer algorithm, including how it compares to human classifications and what this means for the future of volunteer-driven citizen science.” The “also introduce — and have a bit of fun with — the jargon gong.”

* Moon Zoo – With the thousands of images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, participants classify the myriad types of lunar surface features.

Flying over Taurus-Littrow – Moon Zoo blog – This post points to dramatically lit images of the Taurus-Littrow site where Apollo 17 landed.



* Planet Four – In this project, participants help “find and mark ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface. Scientists believe that these features indicate wind direction and speed. By tracking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ over the course of several Martian years to see how they form, evolve, disappear and reform, we can help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ climate.”

to the North! – Planet Four Blog –  The project currently only has image data for the Martian southern hemisphere but they will eventually get northern imagery. A JPL video discusses the features in the north that the project wants to investigate

Mars One obtains its first investments

The Mars One organization, though it recently became a non-profit, wants to fund one-way expeditions to Mars via media sponsorships, reality shows, and other commercial techniques. They released this announcement today:

Mars One Secures First Investments

AMERSFOORT, THE NETHERLANDS, 29 JANUARY 2013 – Interplanetary Media Group, the Mars One daughter company which manages the intellectual property and media associated with the human mission to Mars, has received its first investments. These funds will be used to finance the Conceptual Design Studies and the launch of the global Astronaut Selection Program.

Kai Staats, Director of Business Development for Mars One states, “Organizing a human mission to Mars is a tremendously complex venture. There are many engineering hurdles to overcome and the total funds required are tremendous. Raising a few million [US dollars] in the coming months may seem insignificant in the shadow of the pending billions required, but we are taking it one step at a time. These first few bring tangible demonstration to nearly two years in planning. For us, committed funds in this phase of development are an important indicator we are moving in the right direction.

In the first half of 2013, Mars One will award the Conceptual Design studies to industry suppliers. These are sophisticated engineering bids, technical plans which lay the foundation for the major components such as the transport vehicles, space suits, life support systems and living modules on Mars. These will substantiate the Mission plan with real-world engineering designs and data.

Mars One will also launch the Astronaut Selection Program which immediately, directly involves people from around the world. This is a new paradigm for anyone who is interested to participate in space travel. As Mars One is anticipating hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than one million applicants, the infrastructure required to professionally manage such a process is substantial.

Mars One remains open to additional investors. Interested parties may contact Mars One at