Space+5 Are Training for Space!

Uplift Aerospace’s CEO Josh Hanes does things differently.

First of all, Hanes’ created and used the Space+ NFT project for potential candidates to apply to be the first real life astronaut for his Web3 aerospace company.

Secondly, when the application process resulted in not one, but five, extraordinary astronaut seat finalists, Hanes decided to go outside the box and bring all five on board to train as Uplift Aerospace’s first commercial astronaut class, the Space+5.

(Ruben Salinas, a medtech serial entrepreneur, was officially selected for the seat, and his is the first seat Uplift has contracted to fly with Blue Origin on an upcoming New Shepard mission.)

Space+5 Commercial Crew: Mike Mongo, Trent Tresch, Joan Melendez Misner, Ruben Salinas, Sydney Hamilton

Then, for a location to make his aerospace company’s big announcement, Josh Hanes chose music artist Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club in NYC during NFT.NYC, and in doing so made history: Space+5 is now the first commercial crew in history announced at a Black-owned establishment.

Hanes understands the power of his choice to debut Space+5 at 40/40 Club, “I’m a big fan of Jay-Z and their team made the space available for us. I am proud of what we accomplished and how it worked out the way it did.”

Things always working out is yet another one of the things that is distinctly different about Hanes and his aerospace startup, Uplift. Dedicated to facilitating ownership and exchange of physical and digital assets in space through NFTs, Uplift Aerospace’s team has seemingly discovered a new route to space: Web3.

Uplift Aerospace leading the Web3 movement to space.

At the same time much of the world is yet wrapping its collective head around NFTs and Web3, Hanes and team have built a new kind of space company. Wrapping Uplift around a community of like-minded space culturalists–whose resistance to new technology is minimal, while their willingness to “boldly go” and embrace an evolving new commercial path to space is maximal–as the Web3 expression of the company, Space+ embodies a vision of access that upends traditional models, which may have led to the gate-keeping of space and the future. Uplift Aerospace and Space+ are beyond “new space”, a term that has been used for nearly three decades to describe post-Apollo space industry, they are “Next Space”: the new model of space growing up and out from an expansive vision of what is possible and what Inspiration4 astronaut–and first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft–Dr. Sian Proctor calls J.E.D.I. space. That is, space that is Just, Equitable, Diverse, Inclusive. Space that is for everybody.

(Astronaut Dr. Proctor, who flew to space September 15, 2022 as pilot for Inspiration4, officiated the Uplift Aerospace Space+5 commercial crew announcement.)

Inspiration4 astronaut Dr Sian Proctor flanked by Space+5’s Sydney Hamilton and Joan Melendez Misner.

Indeed, the personal makeup of the Space+5 commercial crew astronauts is exactly as diverse and inclusive–and socially wired–a group of space professionals to have ever trained to fly together to space. Says Space+5 crew member, NASA engineer Joan Melendez-Misner, “I posted the announcement as a Reel I made for Instagram and it went viral in Puerto Rico. I am training to be the fourth astronaut who is Latina to go to space and that is already inspiring other young woman!”

Astronaut teacher and fellow crew member, Mike Mongo, agrees and shares that diversity, inclusion, and representation are core to Space+5, “One of the first things we did is discuss how everyone self-identifies: Black, Latina, Latino, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Cuban, Scot, Mexican, African-American, and more. We have a rich make-up of backgrounds. And one of the first congratulations I got was from my good friend, scientist-entrepreneur, Martine Rothblatt, who was thrilled that, when I get to space, I will become the first astronaut who is openly Bisexual.”

“This is a terrific personal accomplishment for each of us”, says Mongo, “and, yet, what we are most proud of is how many people already see themselves in our space mission–because Space+5 represents the future of space.”

The Future of Space

The now-historic Spaceplus NFT.

Perhaps the single most unique aspect of the unfolding Space+5 story is how each of the five members of the crew came to apply, become finalists, and then selected by Uplift Aerospace to train as commercial astronauts:

It started with an NFT.

NFTs are non-fungible tokens: digital assets whose provenance of ownership is clearly (and publicly) established on blockchains. In this way, blockchains function as dynamic and permanent ledgers that provide proof-of-ownership and, in this case, the opportunity to participate in a traditional astronaut selection process.

For the Space+ astronaut selection process, each member of the Space+5 chose to participate by making the commitment of buying the newly-offered Space+ Launch Pass NFT in order to submit individual applications–along with complimentary media, such as personalized videos. This ingenuitive application of NFT technology made the astronaut application process both accessible, public, and even fun.

This is the video Space+5 commercial crew astronaut trainee Mike Mongo submitted with his application.

That process led to the selection of five finalists for the single astronaut seat: Sydney Hamilton, Joan Melendez Misner, Trent Tresch, Mike Mongo, and Ruben Salinas.

What happened next was as big a surprise to Hanes and the Uplift and Space+ teams as it was to the finalists.

Next Space

Inspired by the camaraderie and good-nature of the five finalists as they advanced together through the selection process, a community-led initiative came together on Discord to select all the five finalists as a single commercial crew. This effort reflected how the Uplift and Space+ team was experiencing the five finalists.

So, meeting behind the scenes while the finalists prepared for the selection of a single astronaut, the Uplift and Space+ team crafted a bold new plan. It was Space+5: all five finalists as a commercial astronaut crew.

With the blessing of Ruben Salinas, Space+’ official astronaut seat selectee, Hanes reached out personally to the other four finalists to inform each of them that they had been selected to train together–as a commercial astronaut class, theSpace+5.

“Even after the New York City announcement, it took a few days for it to sink in,” said Space+5 astronaut candidate and rocket scientist Sydney Hamilton. “I think when I saw the mission patch, I was finally like, ‘omg it’s real, we’re going to space!’”

Space+5 mission patch.

Incidentally, the Space+ community has rallied around the commercial crew and the Space+ NFT continues to hold value. With good reason: The community is eyeing the next selection of astronauts. While preparing their first commercial crew for their upcoming training–including an upcoming zero-g flight with GoZeroG and specialized training at the University of Arizona’s Human Spaceflight Training facility (led by Space+5 astronaut Trent Tresch)–Uplift Aerospace is preparing for future rounds of astronaut selections and additional opportunities for participation for their community of some 617 Space+ NFT owners. “And to keep it fair and transparent, company employees and affiliates are not allowed to participate,” notes CEO Hanes.

In the end, the intent of employing Web3 (blockchain) technology for space commerce is essential to Hanes’ vision: Uplift Aerospace’s commitment to Web3 is modeling the very evolution of what is possible.

“That’s one thing that’s wonderful about the [Web3] community in general — they’ve been able to give greater access to experiences or to networks,” Hanes says. “For Uplift Aerospace, we’re using our NFT as a membership token so that people can get access to spaceflights and pioneering history’s first web3 space program.”

The Space+5 commercial crew flanked by Uplift Aerospace’s CEO Josh Hanes and Director of Communications Emily Higgins at the Space+5 announcement at NYC’s 40/40 Club, June 22, 2022.

For Uplift and Space+, NFTs, the blockchain, and Web3 are tools by which people will find their own way to space.

“What’s being created right now is a space economy,” Hanes says. “NASA is one of the biggest builders behind what we call the low-Earth orbit economy. One of their main directives is to foster and create commerce in low-Earth orbit. They are supporting a lot of private industries who are helping facilitate that, so I’d say Uplift Aerospace is unique in the fact that we’re innovating around the applications of Web3 for commerce in space.”

Hanes is clear that Uplift and Space+ are vision-based initiatives with well-grounded business sensibilities. “We’re not doing this because of the hype of Web3. The Space+5 could not have happened without Web3, and likewise, I think for those people who are skeptical, they’re going to see more and more companies finding valuable use cases within their own industries. For Uplift Aerospace, our first step was a membership token to facilitate commercial crew astronaut selection and actual space missions. Our second phase will begin soon with our upcoming Starborn NFT launch and what we are creating under our agreement with NASA on the International Space Station .”

For more information about Uplift Aerospace, the Spaceplus NFT, and the Space+5 commercial crew, contact Director of Communications Emily Higgins.



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Mike Mongo

Mike Mongo

My name is Mike Mongo and I’m an astronaut teacher! Plus: NFTs; YouTube/Astronaut Adventures; author, The Astronaut Instruction Manual.