Failure to launch: “Inaccuracies,” “incomplete and incorrect references” ground space tourist paper

new spaceAn article in New Space, a journal about space travel, has been retracted because the results it presented weren’t ready for liftoff.

The retraction notice appears as a letter from editor G. Scott Hubbard:

One of the important areas of New Space research is to determine whether there are biomedical conditions that would disqualify prospective spaceflight participants—the current term of art for what others colloquially call “space tourists.”

Historically the astronaut corps has been a small subset of applicants—those humans successfully passing through extensive and rigorous physical and mental testing and training. The book and movie, “The Right Stuff,” documents the extremes the original Mercury Seven astronauts endured to be America’s first astronauts.

Today, several companies are competing to take ordinary citizens to the edge of space for 4 minutes of weightlessness. The question remains, “What if the traveler has an artificial knee joint? What about a pacemaker implanted? What about controlled hypertension?”

To begin to answer these questions, human rated centrifuge testing has been underway at the NASTAR facility in Pennsylvania. Some of this work was described in the Perspective by Brienna Henwood, “Medically Fit for Commercial Spaceflight.” New Space 1 (4):158–161. Unfortunately, subsequent review by the author and the editor have determined that this publication was premature and that there are inaccuracies and areas of incomplete and incorrect references to the work of others. As a result, the article is hereby retracted.

In a future issue, Richard Leland (President of the NASTAR Center) and Dr. Jim Vanderploeg, University of Texas Medical Branch, will submit a follow-up article for New Space highlighting NASTAR’s role in research of this type and the value of their contribution to studies that advance the understanding of human responses to the G profiles encountered during commercial spaceflight.

Editor Hubbard tells us:

The New Space retraction has been agreed to by the principals, Henwood and NASTAR management on the one hand and Dr. Jim Vanderploeg of UTMB on the other. Jim brought the problem to my attention, noting particularly premature publication of results.  UTMB and NASTAR work very closely together and as I state in my retraction will submit a much more detailed summary of centrifuge data in a future edition (currently scheduled for the September issue.)

Henwood did not respond to our request for comment. From her bio:

Brienna Henwood is an accomplished Marine Biologist, Astronaut Trainer, Published Researcher, Student Pilot, Master SCUBA Diver, Triathlete, and PR & Communications Executive. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Space Training and Research at the National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center in Philadelphia, PA, where she helped lead the company from infancy into an internationally recognized, FAA approved, global center for commercial astronaut training.

According to an October 2012 press release announcing the new journal, New Space is:

the only international peer-reviewed journal dedicated to space innovation. This groundbreaking publication facilitates the emerging multidisciplinary opportunities for space-based collaborations of industry, academia, and government agencies.

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