NASA Scientist Wins a Trip On The Lynx

An artist's depiction of the Lynx suborbital spaceplane (Credits: XCOR).

Thomas Goodwin, a physiology and bioengineering researcher at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, won a free suborbital flight aboard XCOR’s experimental Lynx vehicle. Goodwin’s name was randomly selected during the 2012 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) on February 27th.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to accept this” Goodwin said  “I’m very surprised.” Attendees to the conference were signed up for the drawing automatically if they registered for the event in advance. Goodwin may have difficulty claiming his prize due to his status as a government employee.

If Goodwin is unable to accept the prize, the ticket will be given to an alternate, also selected by XCOR at the conference. Regardless of the recipient, the winner is in for “one amazing ride,” said Rick Searfoss, XCOR’s chief test pilot and former space shuttle commander.

XCOR’s Lynx vehicle is one of a number of suborbital spaceplanes currently racing to be the first to begin regular suborbital flights for tourism and microgravity research. While a flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will cost each of its six passengers roughly 200,000 USD per flight, the XCOR has announced that a flight on the Lynx will only cost 95,000 USD.

The flight profile of the Lynx (click to zoom) (Credits: XCOR).

The Lynx is designed to takeoff and land using a conventional runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port, and will carry only one passenger per trip. The half-hour flight takes the vehicle just to the edge of space at an altitude of roughly 103km. According to their website, XCOR is hoping to perform flight-test operations before the end of 2012.

The NSRC-2012 conference is jointly hosted by NASA, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and Southwest Research Institute. Running until February 29th, it brings together scientists and industry experts to discuss the use of suborbital spaceflight for scientific purposes.

The video below shows an animation of a flight of the Lynx.

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