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Space mission tests accessibility

 the Flight 1 Ambassador Team
the Flight 1 Ambassador Team Image credit: space.com

Last Sunday, October 17, twelve disabled ambassadors flew weightlessly as part of a mission which aims to make STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) more accessible.

The AstroAccess flight took off from Long Beach, California, aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s (Zero-G) “G-Force One” plane which creates short interviews of weightlessness by flying in a parabolic curve.

Each ambassador, who have mobility, vision loss and hearing loss, tested how accessible their flight was during periods of high gravity and weightlessness.

As you can imagine the crew was carefully selected with each member having a backgrounds in sectors such as science, engineering and the arts.

Known as the Flight 1 Ambassador Team the ambassadors completed experiments and demonstrations during their mission using their knowledge to suggest how the spacecraft could be adapted for astronauts with disabilities.

The team included Sina Bahram, a researcher, computer scientist and accessibility consultant; Dana Bolles, a science communications expert who previously worked as a NASA payload safety engineer; Mary Cooper, an aerospace engineering and computer science student; Eric Ingram, the founder and CEO of the space technology company SCOUT; Centra (Ce-Ce) Mazyck, an Army veteran jumpmaster, public speaker and Paralympic athlete; Mona Minkara, an assistant bioengineering professor at Northeastern University; Viktoria Modesta, a bionic pop artist; Zuby Onwuta, an Army veteran and innovator with Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sawyer Rosenstein, a news producer at WPBF 25 and host of the Talking Space podcast; Eric Shear, a chemical engineering graduate student; Apurva Varia, a NASA mission operation director; and Sheri Wells-Jensen, an associate professor of linguistics at Bowling Green State University. 

"I’m thrilled to be joining the AstroAccess team to make space accessible by design. So often we make design decisions up front that are exclusionary to entire segments of the population. That’s why I’m so excited about space. Space, to me, is a blank canvas," Bahram said in the statement.

"We are only at the beginning of this journey, but I am already excited to see what can be achieved by removing barriers to space, inspiring the future generations to pursue careers in aerospace and other STEM industries, and the benefit this will have on humankind."

George Whitesides, co-project lead of AstroAccess and chair of the Space Advisory Board for Virgin Galactic, said: "We are honoured to unveil the crew for our inaugural flight, which promises to represent a historic step in the mission to open space for all. Each of our ambassadors brings incredible experience and a wealth of expertise to our team."

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