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TechCrunch Space: A new era for human spaceflight research

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. We’ll have to wait a little longer for the return of Boeing’s Starliner capsule from the International Space Station — the capsule and its two astronauts will stay at the station for twice as much time as originally planned, to give mission operators additional time to conduct tests on the spacecraft. (Which has experienced a series of leaks and other issues since launch.) New return to Earth date: June 22.

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Story of the week

We could be entering a renaissance for human spaceflight research, as a record number of private citizens head to space — and as scientists improve techniques for gathering data on these intrepid test subjects. A sign that the renaissance is imminent appeared earlier this week, when the journal Nature published a cache of papers detailing the physical and mental changes the four-person Inspiration4 crew experienced nearly three years ago.

Inspiration4 crew members conducting scientific research.
Image Credits: Inspiration4 (opens in a new window)

Ars Technica’s Eric Berger takes a closer look at the future of Virgin Galactic as the company embarks on a two-year no-fly period in order to bring its next-gen class of spaceships online.

Virgin Galactic VSS Unity in flight
Virgin Galactic VSS Unity
Image Credits: Virgin Galactic (opens in a new window)

This week in space history

Sally Ride became the first American woman to go to space on June 18, 1983, when she flew to orbit on Challenger’s STS-7 mission.

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“The fact that I was going to be the first American woman to go into space carried huge expectations along with it,” Ride recalled in an interview for the 25th anniversary of her flight in 2008. “That was made pretty clear the day that I was told I was selected to a crew. I was taken up to (Johnson Space Center director) Chris Kraft’s office. He wanted to have a chat with me and make sure I knew what I was getting into before I went on the crew. I was so dazzled to be on the crew and go into space I remembered very little of what he said.”

Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Image Credits: NASA

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