Press Release

Americans in Orbit – 50 Years, Puts Space Exploration Focus on Education

By SpaceRef Editor
August 13, 2009
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AIO-50 seeks private funding and academic programs to test recovery systems on original Gemini capsule

Americans in Orbit – 50 Years (AIO-50) announced today its own giant leap into space exploration by taking its International Space Science Education Program (ISSEP) to the private sector for funding so that America’s youth and education is again an integral part of the space program. With budget cuts looming over the future of government-funded space exploration; the retirement of the space shuttles next year; and a focus on Moon/Mars exploration as the next big NASA project, AIO-50 seeks to make space accessible to the ingenuity and creative thinking of America’s schools, colleges, and universities.

The ISSEP offers more opportunities for students, professors, and private industry professionals to participate in space-related discoveries, and contribute to resulting technologies. According to AIO-50 President, Craig Russell, it has become almost impossible for students to get space science projects into orbit. “Access to space for universities had dwindled over the past few years to virtually zero,” he says.

In July, Russell took the first step in preparation for the February 20, 2012 “America’s Launch” mission when he transported a boilerplate Gemini capsule from Kansas City, MO, to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL where it is currently on display. The capsule is “on loan” to AIO-50 from Vince Lawrence, president of

“The capsule is available to any college or university program willing to test the recovery and landing system capabilities needed,” Russell says. “This is an exceptional hands-on opportunity for any college or university. The technology to land the Gemini on the ground has been available for fifty years. We have access to the original blueprints – we just need private funding and the academic world to make it work.” AIO-50 is currently seeking cooperative fundraising opportunities and corporate sponsorships, to support the school or schools that rise to the challenge.

The Gemini IR (Improved-Reusable) manned spacecraft will use modern instrumentation, computers, and GPS. Two private astronauts, Mission Commander Howard Chipman and Co-Pilot Veronique Koken will launch using the man-rated Falcon 9 rocket in February 20, 2012, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Friendship 7 mission. “AIO-50 will launch on a regular basis, so engineering students from around the world will have the opportunity to work on space science experiments and small satellites,” says Russell.

Commander Chipman says, “We look forward to the opportunity… to inspire the young and old alike to a space-faring future for America and the world.”

Americans in Orbit – 50 Years is a non-profit organization committed to inspiring future generations in space exploration with a dedication to education. Visit our website at

Americans in Orbit – 50 Years
Craig Russell, 256-774-3096

SpaceRef staff editor.