Becoming a Citizen-Scientist Astronaut: The Journey Begins
Welcoming aboard Shawna Pandya the get2Space.com blog. This is her first post of several to come.. welcome Shawna…
Many of us, as children, dream of becoming astronauts.
Once in a lifetime, the opportunity to realize this dream presents itself.
My name is Shawna Pandya, and I have been granted the tremendous honor, duty, and privilege of training as a citizen-scientist astronaut.
In everyday life, I am a physician, but I have been granted the opportunity to train with Projects PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science of the Upper Mesosphere) and PHEnOM (Physiological, Health and Environmental Observations in Microgravity) as a citizen-scientist astronaut candidate. I am also concurrently training with Project Poseidon as a crew member to spend 100 days under the sea in an underwater research facility in 2018 to further ocean exploration and space analog research. Our ultimate objective with each of these projects is to perform research and meet specific scientific objectives. In the case of Project PoSSUM, we aim to study noctilucent cloud formation and composition through suborbital flight. With PHEnOM, we aim to study human physiology and performance measures in the lab, in microgravity and through suborbital flight.
The happy by-products of taking part in suborbital flight mean that we pass the 100km Karmen line that defines the boundary of outer space, and in so doing, become astronauts. The happy by-product of Project Poseidon is that I get to call myself an aquanaut. The happy by-product of each of these missions is that I get to call myself an adventurer, explorer, teammate, scientist…and someone who is all-around thrilled, excited and over-the-moon (sorry, couldn’t resist!) to be a part of these journeys.
Over the coming months and years – despite training now, all of these missions are scheduled for 2018 – I hope to share my training and adventures with you and answer any questions you have. I also hope to share my thoughts on what it takes to be a scientist, explorer, adventurer and astronaut, based on the explorers and astronauts I’ve met in real-life, as well as on the lessons I learn along the way.
Stay tuned for my next few posts, where I talk about my training with Project PoSSUM, the science behind it, what it was like testing commercial spacesuits in microgravity and what centrifuge studies and training was like.
You can follow through my training and adventures (and submit questions!) on this blog and on Twitter @shawnapandya.
Till the next time – ad astra!