MISSION: AstroAccess

AstroAccess will launch a group of disabled scientists, veterans, students, athletes, and artists on a historic parabolic flight with the Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G), as the first step in a progression toward flying a diverse range of people to space.
These "AstroAccess Ambassadors" will experience weightlessness and carry out lunar gravity, Martian gravity, and zero gravity observations and experiments investigating how the physical environment aboard space vessels should be modified so that all astronauts and explorers, regardless of disability on Earth, can live, work, and thrive in space.

The first parabolic flight mission will fly on ZERO-G on October 17, 2021, with the ultimate goal of flying one or more team members to space in the coming years.
This project is being supported through the Whitesides Foundation and is part of the SciAccess Initiative, an international organization dedicated to advancing disability inclusion in STEM. The fiscal sponsor of the project is Yuri's Night, a non-profit space advocacy organization.
(credit: AstroAccess)
Astro Access ambassadors smiling at camera in front of zero gravity plane. Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen, Mona Minkara, Azubuike Onwuta, and Sina Bahram (left to right) sitting and kneeling on zero gravity plane smiling at camera with 5 support team members also smiling through their cut masks standing behind them.
Mona Minkara in zero gravity plane floating with toes touching and hands spread horizontally.
My Involvement
I am honored to be one of the 12 ambassadors serving as the flight crew on the inaugural mission of AstroAccess.  On October 17th, we conducted observations and experiments during the parabolic flight investigating how the physical environment aboard space vessels should be modified so that all astronauts and explorers, regardless of disability on Earth, can live, work, and thrive in space. 
A huge thank you to the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) for sponsoring me!  It is incredible to be part of a team working on an inclusive future. I'm so grateful to everyone who has worked to make this happen. 
Mona Minkara smiling at camera.
Mona Minkara and Dana Bolles smiling at camera in astro access suit while Mona holds a sign with her name on it.
Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen, Mona Minkara, Azubuike (Zuby) Onwuta, and Sina Bahram (left to right) sitting and kneeling on zero gravity plane smiling at camera.
The team is listed below:
A photo of Sina Bahram smiling at the camera.
Sina Bahram is the President and founder of Prime Access Consulting, Inc. (PAC) and also serves as an invited expert on working groups and standards bodies, including the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) working group. Sina believes that accessibility is sustainable when it is adopted as a culture, not just a tactic, and he is dedicated to shaping the next generation of digital accessibility standards and best practices.
A photo of Dana Bolles on a wheel chair at the NASA office.
Dana Bolles works at NASA Headquarters as a science communications program manager. Additionally, Dana currently serves as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador. This program brings together 125 women from a variety of STEM careers to serve as high-profile role models for middle school girls.
A photo of Mary Cooper smiling at the camera.
Mary Cooper is a student at Stanford University pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering & Computer Science. She is a champion athlete and a below-the-knee amputee. She is also a 2020 Brooke Owens Fellow, 2020 Lime Connect Fellow, and most recently a 2021 Matthew Isakowtiz Fellow.
A photo of Eric Ingram smiling at the camera.
Eric Ingram is the Founder and CEO of SCOUT Inc., a company that is de-risking space operations with sensor suites that enable spacecraft to see and understand the area around them. He was previously an Aerospace Engineer for the Licensing and Evaluation Division of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Eric is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Space Frontier Foundation, plays wheelchair rugby, and was the first person in a wheelchair to earn a Gracie Jiu Jitsu blue belt.
A photo of Centra Mazyck on a wheelchair smiling at the camera.
Centra (Ce-Ce) Mazyck is an athlete and former First Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division. During her time in the army she suffered a drastic spinal injury, but this didn’t slow her down. She returned to sports as a paralympic athlete placing first in javelin at the paralympic trials in 2012. She went on to win bronze at the IPC Athletics World Championships in 2013, and continues to be dedicated to inspiring audiences both young and old all around the world.
A photo of Mona Minkara smiling at the camera.
Mona Minkara is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at Northeastern University and leads the Minkara COMBINE (Computational Modeling for BioINterface Engineering) Lab researching pulmonary surfactant. Minkara serves on the Chemists with Disabilities Committee for the American Chemical Society, is a member of the Disabilities Outreach and Inclusion Community for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and works with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She is committed to making STEM more accessible and inclusive through theorizing and designing new tools as a partner with Synses Designs.
A photo of Viktoria Modesta at the LA art show looking at the camera.
Viktoria Modesta is a bionic pop artist and creative director. Dedicated to changing the world’s perspective on post-disability, Viktoria brings a multidisciplinary approach to her work, connecting the art community and innovation to pop culture. She performed as the Snow Queen during the 2012 Summer Paralympics closing ceremony, was a member of the 2015 Cohort of Director’s Fellows at MIT Media Lab, and has headlined a run of sold-out shows at the Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris.
A photo of Azubuike (Zuby) Onwuta smiling at the camera.
Azubuike (Zuby) Onwuta is a Harvard-MIT trained innovator, US Presidential Service Award recipient, US Army Veteran, patented inventor of “Brain control for Blind Assistive Tech”, founder of “Think and Zoom”, and founder of the publication “Future of Disability”. Hardships from losing his medical studies and US Army and engineering careers to legal blindness disability inspired him to invent and patent a solution that reads and responds to human brain waves to provide hands-free vision augmentation and reading assistance. Onwuta is dedicated to "creating a world where visual impairment no longer steals dreams or kills careers".
A photo of Sawyer Rosenstein positioned off-center slightly to the right smiling at the camera with his hands on top of a bag. On left behind him there is a SpaceX rocket.
Sawyer Rosenstein is an avid space enthusiast and news producer at WPBF 25 in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is currently host of the popular Talking Space podcast. Through the podcast, he became the youngest member of the NASA press corps at 17, covering the final space shuttle launch as media in 2011. He has covered dozens of launches since then, including every flight during the Commercial Crew Program. He was formerly a flight director with the Challenger Centers for Space Science Education for 12 year and was also an intern for the communications office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
A photo of Eric Shear in a white lab coat with safety glasses. His arms are folded and he is smiling at the camera.
Eric Shear is currently a graduate student in chemical engineering at the University of Florida. In 2011, Eric led an experiment on the Weightless Wonder aircraft as part of NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. His previous work at York University led to two peer-reviewed academic publications in space mission design, with him as the first author. He is currently serving as a patent research intern at UFInnovate Tech Licensing.
A photo of Apurva Varia in a blue jumpsuit looking at the camera.
Apurva Varia was inspired to become an aerospace engineer after seeing the space shuttle launch on TV while he was in the ninth grade. After that launch, he wrote a letter to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas asking if the space program would ever accept deaf astronauts. They responded saying that they would take that into consideration for the future. After studying Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering, he served as the Mission Director for Parker Solar Probe, Mission Director for the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), and Deputy Mission Director for the Lunar Reconnaissance Mission (LRO).
A picture of Dr. Sheri Wells-Jenson smiling.
Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Bowling Green State University, where she researches social aspects of human colonization, disability, the relationship between language, embodiment and thought, language evolution, and ways that alternative sensory inputs can influence the evolution of scientific thought. Sheri previously served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador educating on pesticide safety. In addition to being a professor, Sheri serves on the boards of the SciAccess, SSoCIA (Social and Conceptual issues in Astrobiology), and METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International and is currently writing a book on disability and space.