|Born||April 20, 1945|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Fairleigh Dickinson University (B.S., B.Eng, M.S.)|
University of Virginia (Ph.D.)
|Space Adventures Tourist|
Time in space
|9d 21h 15m|
|Missions||Soyuz TMA-7 / Soyuz TMA-6|
|Thesis||The fcc-bcc transformation in thin iron films. (1970)|
|Doctoral advisor||William A. Jesser|
Gregory Hammond Olsen (born April 20, 1945) is an American entrepreneur, engineer and scientist who, in October 2005, became the third private citizen to make a self-funded trip to the International Space Station with the company Space Adventures.
Olsen was the co-founder and chairman of Sensors Unlimited Inc., a company developing optoelectronic devices such as sensitive near-infrared (NIR) and shortwave-infrared (SWIR) cameras. One of Sensors Unlimited's major customers is NASA. Currently, Olsen is President of GHO Ventures, LLC, in Princeton, New Jersey, where he manages his angel investments, South African winery, Montana ranch, Manhattan and Miami real estate, and performs numerous speaking engagements to encourage children – especially minority and female children – to consider careers in science or engineering. He also is a physics professor at Rider University.
Olsen, born in Brooklyn, New York, was the son of an IBEW Local 3 electrician. His mother was a school teacher. He grew up in Bay Ridge and graduated from Ridgefield Park High School, Ridgefield Park, New Jersey in 1962. Olsen initially wanted to be a baseball player but realised from local little league how tough the standard was. Olsen was inspired by his father to become an electrician, always having the education at home to fix things in-house instead of calling a repairman.
After being written off as a failure by teachers due to poor grades in high school, Olsen planned to join the United States Army until he was counseled to try college for several months. Through an IBEW Local 3 scholarship, Olsen attempted college, kept his grades high, and graduated magna cum laude with multiple degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He later graduated with a PhD in materials science from the University of Virginia. He has two daughters, Kimberly and Krista, and six grandchildren: Justin Dibsie, Carter Dibsie, Danielle Dibsie, Romina Lapadula, Athina Lapadula, and Oriana Lapadula.
Olsen admits to little business training and believes that for companies making less than 100 million (the smaller companies as he calls them) that success is based more on “intuition, instinct and hard work.” He does credit his success to his graduate science training. “Two of my start-up companies are from the fields I trained in. For instance, my first company EPITAXX (a supplier of optical detectors and receivers for fiber optic telecommunications and cable television networks) relied on my knowledge of physics and material science.” Olsen likes to put his money into high-risk start-ups. Olsen founded EPITAXX, a fiberoptic detector manufacturer in 1984 together with Vladimir Ban. It was sold in 1990 for $12 million. He then founded Sensors Unlimited in 1992 with Dr. Marshall J. Cohen. Sensors was sold to Finisar Corp. for $600 million in 2000. It was then repurchased by the management team in 2002 for $6 million, and sold once more to Goodrich, Corp. in 2005 for $60 million.
Having flown to the International Space Station (ISS) with Soyuz TMA-7 (launched October 1, 2005, docked October 3) and landed with Soyuz TMA-6 (October 10), Olsen is the third self-funded space tourist to visit the ISS, following Dennis Tito (2001) and Mark Shuttleworth (2002) (all three space tourists flew through Space Adventures, Ltd.). As of 2013, Soyuz TMA-6 is on display at the Intrepid Museum’s Space Shuttle Pavilion. Olsen has made some comments indicating that he is unhappy with the "space tourist" designation. The following is from National Geographic's coverage "Space Launch – Along for the Ride (2007)": "Greg: The term space tourist implies that you'll write a check and you go for a joyride. And believe me that is not the case at all. Narrator: Greg worked hard to get this far, training for two years with the Russian Space Agency."
Olsen had to train for a year and a half before being ready to go into space. During a routine x-ray, a black spot was found on his lung. He had to have a monthly medical check to obtain permission to fly. It took 9 months for him to pass the medical.
He conducted several experiments in remote sensing and astronomy while aboard the space station. Dr. Olsen is a licensed Amateur Radio radio operator holding FCC callsign KC2ONX and spoke to students via ham radio from space through the ARISS project. In an informal presentation at a New Jersey high school, Dr. Olsen estimated the price of his space excursion at US$20 million.
Olsen was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2010 for research and commercialization of optical components for fiber communications and national defense.