First Manned Commercial Suborbital Research Program to Qualify Scientist-Astronauts

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Project PoSSUM to hold inaugural scientist-astronaut qualification program this February at the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. with a mission to study global climate through the study of elusive 'space clouds'.

“PoSSUM is not about space tourism. PoSSUM is about realizing the new opportunities presented by commercial manned spacecraft to enable science of global benefit"

Project PoSSUM, a non-profit suborbital research program, announces the first PoSSUM scientist-astronaut class to be held at the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., Feb. 7 - 10, 2015. This unique opportunity allows individuals to train with some of the world’s leading upper atmospheric scientists and to fly to space as part of an international research campaign dedicated to the study of global climate. The four-day, fully immersive qualification program was designed by former NASA astronaut instructors to provide its candidates with the skills required to effectively conduct research on commercial space vehicles as part of Project PoSSUM.

PoSSUM, an acronym for Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere, uses commercial suborbital spacecraft and high-altitude manned balloons to study rare “space clouds” called noctilucent clouds. These elusive clouds can help scientists address critical questions about the Earth’s climate, but they can only be seen from polar latitudes during a small window of time in the summer.

Twelve initial astronaut candidates will learn how to image noctilucent clouds using a customized imagery system called ‘PoSSUMCam’, operate PoSSUM remote-sensing instruments, and recognize cloud features of the greatest scientific interest. The candidates will also receive crew resource management training through custom simulation designed in collaboration with Embry Riddle and Sundog Software. Candidates receive further instruction in spacesuit operations, high-altitude environments, and high-g operations. Upon graduation, candidates will be fully trained and qualified to fly to space as part of a PoSSUM deployment.

“PoSSUM is not about space tourism. PoSSUM is about realizing the new opportunities presented by commercial manned spacecraft to enable science of global benefit. PoSSUM is about engaging and educating people about the pivotal role that our atmosphere plays in the study of global climate. Every PoSSUM scientist-astronaut is an ambassador of this mission,” said PoSSUM Principal Investigator Dr. Jason Reimuller.

PoSSUM evolved from the Noctilucent Cloud Imagery and Tomography experiment, selected by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program in March 2012 as experiment 46-S. Among those candidates that will train in February will be Cosmonaut Ronnie Nader and a team from Ecuador, who will be modeling elements for their own national space program from the PoSSUM program.

The PoSSUM noctilucent cloud research campaigns are currently scheduled to begin in July 2016, and the scientist-astronauts that complete the program will be a part of the first group of astronauts qualified to fly over Earth’s polar latitudes, where noctilucent clouds and aurora are present, using either a manned reusable suborbital vehicle, such as the XCOR Lynx, or a high-altitude manned balloon. Never before has an astronaut or cosmonaut flown over polar latitudes.

For updates on Project PoSSUM and this inaugural class, or to apply to the program, please visit http://www.projectpossum.org.

About Project PoSSUM: Project PoSSUM is a pending 501(c)3 suborbital research project that uses commercial space vehicles to study the upper atmosphere. PoSSUM develops, tests, and integrates space hardware for use on commercial space vehicles and organizes deployments of spacecraft for space research campaigns. PoSSUM also engages the public directly through its Scientist-Astronaut program, administered by PoSSUM team scientists through the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. PoSSUM is managed by Integrated Spaceflight Services (http://www.integratedspaceflight.com). To learn more about Project PoSSUM, visit http://www.projectpossum.org.

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Jamie Guined

Jason D. Reimuller
@PoSSUMAstronaut
since: 05/2013
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