Suborbital training is not for the faint of heart, which is why two MIT alumnae deeply involved in furthering space travel are happily headed for it in January. Dava Newman SM ’89, PhD ’92 and Erika Wagner SM ’02, PhD’07 are set to be among the first prospective scientist-astronauts to undergo spaceflight physiology training in a new private program at the National AeroSpace Training and Research Center (NASTAR).
Newman and Wagner hope to put these new skills to work. “We’re not going to space (yet,” says Wagner, “but we are looking forward to training for the day when we can conduct science on Virgin Galactic or one of the other new commercial vehicles.”
Newman, professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems and director of the Technology and Policy Program, studies aerospace biomedical engineering and has invented a sleek and flexible space suit. Wagner is the founding executive director of the X PRIZE Lab@MIT and has served as science director and executive director of the Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program.
Not everyone would count this training as fun. NASTAR promises you “sustained elevated G exposure, altitude exposure, spatial disorientation, and other physiological effects of entering the space environment.”