Dr Shawna Pandya chosen to be an astronaut on Virgin Galactic Space Flight


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Virgin Galactic Holdings announced a new contract with the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (“IIAS”) to fly three research astronauts as part of a future crew aboard the Company’s Delta Class spaceship.

Dr. Shawna Pandya, a physician, aquanaut, bioastronautics researcher, and Director of IIAS’s Space Medicine Group, from Canada, has been selected to be one of the astronauts.

Dr. Pandya was on the first crew to test a commercial spacesuit in zero gravity in 2015. To date, she has flown 10 parabolic flight campaigns, culminating in over 160 parabolas of experience in micro- and reduced gravity. She earned her aquanaut designation on the 2019 NEPTUNE (Nautical Experiments in Physiology, Technology and Underwater Exploration) mission, and completed a second aquanaut mission, NEP2NE. She served as Payload Crew and co-PI of the 2023 IIAS-01 suborbital research flight and a PI and/or co-I for Ax-2, Polaris Dawn, and Blue Origin payloads.

Her work is permanently exhibited at the Ontario Science Center alongside Dr. Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space. In 2022, Dr. Pandya was named to the Explorers’ Club’s “50 Explorers Changing the World.” In 2024, she was recognized for her contributions by the Women’s Space Awards in the Medicine and Health category and named a Karman Pioneer.

The mission is designed to enable IIAS to introduce new research while also expanding upon the results from ‘Galactic 05,’ during which astronaut Kellie Gerardi was able to successfully validate a fluid behavior theory within the high-quality microgravity conditions available through Virgin Galactic’s unique flight system. The IIAS crew plans to fly additional fluid cells, with payload enhancements including upgrades to camera quality and accelerometer measurements.

Virgin Galactic is an aerospace and space travel company, pioneering human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers with its advanced air and space vehicles. Scale and profitability are driven by next-generation vehicles capable of bringing humans to space at an unprecedented frequency with an industry-leading cost structure.

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