To say that all eyes are on the sky right now would be an understatement. NASA has become one of the most popular government agencies in the United States over the past year, and for good reason. In an increasingly anti-science climate, NASA continues to plunge forward with their work. Now, the agency is looking to take the next step in order to allow researchers a chance to perform their experiments in environments that had previously not even been an option. NASA and commercial suborbital vehicles are opening up new doors for researchers and the government institution has made it clear that they are willing to let researchers get the shot that they need in order to acquire the data that will aid them.
Suborbital vehicles have become capable of carrying payloads and people and that has opened the door for scientists to get the kind of data that had once been all but barred. NASA has introduced the Flight Opportunities program in order to allow experiments to be held on the Blue Origin’s New Shepard vessel. Steve Jurczyk, an administrator at NASA, gave a speech that opened up about this possibility and gave some optimism for the future of the project. Jurczyk went on to detail how NASA will work alongside their Zero Go program, accompanied by the Flight Opportunities program, to continue getting researchers up and into the air to perform special experiments. Jurczyk went on to stress that safety is, above all, paramount. Jurczyk says, “It just ensures that our grantees and contractors are safe to fly, and then we allow them to go fly.”
Still, despite this optimism about Zero-G testing, Jurczyk wasn’t quick to back up suborbital research by untrained professionals. His opinion was echoed by Lori Garver, another administrator for NASA. Garver said, “We absolutely do not want to rule out paying for research that could be done by an individual spaceflight participant, a researcher or payload specialist, on these vehicles in the future.” Garver’s announcement was seen by many as an attempt to jump the gun because NASA still has no official policy or stance on untrained professionals entering suborbital vehicles for research.
No matter what NASA decides to do with untrained scientists, the Blue Origin New Shepard vehicle is already performing serious experiments. All eyes will be on the Blue Origin vehicle in the future because it could be by way of this vessel that the future of space research is changed forever.