SAN FRANCISCO — For 30 years, Michael Wiskerchen has been eager to see microgravity research fulfill its promise. As the former director of NASA’s space physics office and program scientist for the first space shuttle mission to carry the Spacelab orbiting laboratory in its cargo bay, Wiskerchen has long been convinced space-based research would lead to important discoveries.
For decades, however, he watched as researchers were stymied by a lack of frequent, reliable access to orbit and difficulty in obtaining funding and approval to conduct experiments onboard the international space station.
As those impediments begin to fall away, Wiskerchen has come out of retirement to serve as vice president for spaceflight operations at Zero Gravity Solutions Inc. (ZGSI), a biotechnology startup that aims to use microgravity research to identify promising commercial products with applications for plants, animals and people on Earth. “The realization that this company could actually do what I dreamt of is thrilling,” Wiskerchen said.