How AstroAccess plans to make space more accessible

AstroAccess, a nonprofit that promotes disability inclusion in space, has partnered with the Aurelia Institute to advance astronaut diversity by researching zero-gravity missions.

“In a sense, space is the ultimate equalizer: everyone who leaves Earth is subject to the radical experience of leaving gravity behind,” the Aurelia Institute said in a statement. blog post this month, But in another sense, real barriers to entry for astronauts still exist—be it cost, physical access, or lack of outreach.

In an effort to change this, Aurelia led the Horizon 2022 zero-gravity flight, which took place on 22 May, with 25 crew participants from various organizations, including “ambassadors” for AstroAccess. The 90-minute mission simulated space flight with 20 parabolas of the Moon, Mars and zero gravity that lasted about 20 seconds.

Mission Basics

Each crew member on the Horizon flight had a research goal, art project, or storytelling task while in microgravity. AstroAccess participants focused on specific new trials and experiments:

  • Centra “Ce-Ce” Mazyck, a wheelchair user, navigated the cabin using only the hand grip.
  • Apoorva Varia tested colorful LED lights to indicate zero gravity preparedness for non-verbally deaf passengers.
  • Varia and ASL interpreter Justin Baldi also tested whether astronauts floating at different angles to each other could understand sign language, which relies heavily on eye contact and facial expressions.
  • Victoria Modesta designed and tested a lower-leg prosthesis made specifically for microgravity conditions.
  • Mona Minkara used textured surfaces on the cabin walls, such as Velcro and corduroy, to be oriented without using sight.

expanding access to space

a history: In the 1960s, 11 deaf people participated in NASA experiments About the effects of weightlessness on the body. These showed that some deaf people are immune to motion sickness due to vestibular system differences. This makes them “more adapted to the alien gravitational environment”. Per AstroAccessBut no deaf astronaut has ever been to space. Actually, NASA bars People who are blind, deaf, or have mobility disabilities from space missions.

Future: Last summer, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced plans To launch the first physically disabled astronaut into space. Agency Told In January it reduced 22,000+ applications for its 4- to 6-person program to 1,400 — and 29 of those remaining applicants have a physical disability. And as spaceflight moves toward private companies, there may be more opportunities for expanded access to space.

What will happen next? Following this mission and AstroAccess inaugural flight last fallAstroAccess Flight 2 will take place on November 19, 2022, with new and repeat ambassadors.

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