A Serious Question About Space Exploration

Editor's note: I had a chance to ask the crews of Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station a question this morning.

KEITH COWING: Keith Cowing, NASAWatch.com. You've arrived safely in space, and your shuttle is apparently OK for the ride home. As such, most of the general news media will now promptly lose interest in much of what you do up there.

As a result most of the public is going to be more or less convinced that all you do is wake up to songs from the 60s and the 70s, float around and play with your food, take space walks, and send back pretty pictures. But they never get an idea of the true substance of what you're trying to do up there - and how it fits in with NASA's plans. This is an old problem - it's always lamented - but never fixed. What can you say right now - try it differently - try different words - so as to evoke the importance of what you are doing - for everybody.

STEVE LINDSEY STS-121 COMMANDER: OK, Uh [nervous laughter on-orbit] Here's the way I look at it. I came into this program ten years ago. And I came into it because I believed in it - and [I have] always believed - that as a country - and as a world - we have invested in our future. One of the ways we invest in our future is to do research and by pushing technology.

When we went to the moon back in the 60s, and [when] we built the Shuttle, and the Russians built Soyuz. They started their program - and then we built the space station and then moved on to exploration. All of those things are really hard to do. They appear to look easy - I don't know if we make it look easy or not - I don't think that we do - but its not easy. And if you ask anybody here they'll tell you that it is not easy to do.

But you know, when you do something really hard and you have to push technology and come up with new ways to do things [garbled] you discover new things and you come out with new spin-offs that help everybody here on Earth. So, I think research - just like they do in universities - is the same thing. By doing things that are hard, that is how we advance.

And there is probably not a thing you can do as you go through your day - and you look at something that you are using and, you say, "you know what, part of that - or all of that - came out of the space program".

There have been huge benefits from the space program in the past and there will be in the future. And that's why I am here. And I believe it and I think if you ask anyone here they will tell you the same thing.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on July 9, 2006 2:52 PM.

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