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Saturday, Jul 20, 2024

Mojave Hosts Classes for Astronauts

If space really is the final frontier, Flight Research Inc. wants to prepare you to get there. The test pilot school at the Mojave Air & Space Port in the Antelope Valley now offers a new program for space travelers and employees of companies working in the space industry. Bill Korner, chief executive of Flight Research, said the weeklong course is meant to give an overview about space and how the body is affected by weightlessness. “If you are a future space traveler, we can not only train you on the ground in terms of what goes on in space, we can take you up in a high-performance aircraft and experience the physical effects of zero G and positive G forces,” Korner said. The idea for the program came from two of Flight Research’s instructors, both former NASA astronauts – William Oefelein, pilot of a 12-day shuttle mission in 2006, and Richard Seafross, who piloted the Space Shuttle twice and commanded a 1998 mission. The pair created a program that is a series of lectures on a variety of topics, including space physiology and space law, which covers regulations the Federal Aviation Administration is setting on the commercial space industry. “You can’t just go up there and do whatever you want,” Korner said. “You have to conform to regulations.” One practical skill the course teaches is how equipment works differently in space. The cargo bay doors on the Space Shuttle, for instance, are operated by motors that do not work on Earth, only in space. That is because they are designed for the zero-gravity environment of space, Korner said. “Those are the kinds of things we teach so people can become familiar with what is going on,” he added. The space cadets in the class get the added bonus of going up in a Sabreliner jet trainer aircraft to get them familiar with what happens to the body when exposed to acceleration forces of a craft going into space. There are lateral G forces that go from the stomach to the back, positive G forces that go from the head to the toes and negative G forces that create a weightless condition, Korner said. “It’s important, particularly if they are not pilots and have not been oriented in that kind of thing, that they understand the physiological effects they will go through when they go into space the first time,” he explained. The course will be offered once a quarter and costs $26,000. Flight Research, however, is not the only company offering this type of training. Two other companies with similar programs are Environmental Tectonics Corp., which operates the National Aerospace Training and Research Center outside of Philadelphia, and Waypoint2Space, located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. – Mark R. Madler

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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