It was magical meet the first disabled crew

It was magical meet the first disabled crew

Becoming an astronaut is out of reach for most people. But could the tough selection process be doing more harm than good? The new space company.

Mission Astro Access, wants to challenge the perception that space travel is only for those who meet specific physical criteria, and has sent its first disabled crew on a zero-gravity flight. It was magical,” says Sina Bahram of his first experience of weightlessness. “I’ve wanted to do this since I was four years old, but the underlying assumption was ‘that’s totally impossible.’

The blind computer scientist, from North Carolina, was one of 12 disabled ambassadors selected by Mission Astro Access to the United States to experience zero-gravity flight while conducting experiments on inclusive space travel. In the future, this could mean tactile pathways in and around the shuttles or using sound or vibrations to transmit information.

It can benefit the entire aerospace community,” says Sina, explaining that when you make adjustments for people with disabilities, everyone’s life is easier. The curb to go down the sidewalks, for example, was created for wheelchair users, but is welcomed by parents with strollers. Hadfield might have felt more secure as well.

NASA astronaut Chris Hadfield might be interested in hearing that. He made headlines in 2001 when cleaning fluid leaked into his visor and irritated his eyes so he couldn’t see midway through the spacewalk. Had audio and tactile information been available to him, not only would it have benefited a blind team.

In October, the Mission Astro Access crew traveled to Long Beach, California and boarded a Boeing 727 for a parabolic flight. Sometimes known as Comet Vomit, the plane flies in large arcs. When the plane leans over the arch, it goes into free fall creating weightlessness for about 20 seconds.

Who has always dreamed of space travel but thought it was impossible. The Stanford University computer science and aerospace engineering student was born with fibular hemimelia, where the entire bone in her leg is part or missing. Mary had her left leg amputated below the knee when she was a baby and she wears a prosthesis.

When the plane passed over the arch and gravity disappeared, the crew felt weightless for the first time, an extraordinary sensation. It’s not that you’re floating, it’s that they don’t knock you down anymore,” Sina says excitedly. “You are sitting on the ground, you push yourself as much as with a finger and you are floating.

Sina had wondered what the floating blind would be like when its constant reference point, gravity, disappeared. I was expecting disorientation,” she says, “[but] once I started to get used to zero g, I immediately found it comfortable and easy to push with less force and use a little more finesse.

 

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