Virgin Galactic Holdings will be bringing a team of researchers into space to study the effects of microgravity on the human body. Two of the researchers are members of the Italian Air Force, while the third represents the National Research Council (NRC). All three will be traveling aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity vessel and are paying for the privilege, making the flight the first official commercial flight for Virgin Galactic with humans aboard.
The researchers will specifically be examining how the human body responds when a spaceship transitions from the gravity of Earth to the microgravity environment it experiences in sub-orbital flight. To that end, the researchers will be outfitted with wearable garments and devices that record their biometric data throughout the trip. Mission lead Walter Villadei, a Colonel with the Italian Air Force, will be wearing an innovative (and fashion-forward) smart suit that captures a range of physiological responses, while NRC researcher Pantaleone Carlucci will be wearing sensors that measure heart rate and brain function, amongst other things.
The final member of the team is Italian Air Force Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi, who will be conducting chemical experiments and conducting tests to evaluate the team’s cognitive performance in space. The team is hoping that its data will help the aerospace industry develop better spaceflight systems that could make space travel safer and more feasible for scientists and the general public in the future.
“We’re proud to be facilitating cooperation between spacefaring nations and industry pioneers to expand human knowledge,” said Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier. “This flight will be an important milestone in unlocking the transformative potential of repeatable and reliable access to space for years to come.”
This will be the VSS Unity’s 23rd visit to space. The mission has appropriately been dubbed Unity 23, and is slated to launch from Spaceport America sometime in late September or early October. The researchers did not provide further details about the smart tech they will be wearing, though the smart fabric industry has started to take off in the past few years. Nextiles recently released a new smart fabric SDK, while a Toronto-based smart underwear start-up received $1.5 million from the Ontario government.
September 8, 2021 – by Eric Weiss