News / Science & Technology

Veteran Astronauts Look Beyond Space Shuttle Program

Space shuttle Discovery - the world's most traveled spaceship - thunders into orbit for the final time as it heads toward the International Space Station on a journey that marks the beginning of the end of the shuttle era, at the Kennedy Space Center in C
Space shuttle Discovery - the world's most traveled spaceship - thunders into orbit for the final time as it heads toward the International Space Station on a journey that marks the beginning of the end of the shuttle era, at the Kennedy Space Center in C

Multimedia

Kane Farabaugh

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, plans to end the 30-year-old Space Shuttle program later this year. For the first time since the United States put a man in space, it will not immediately have a vehicle available to get astronauts into orbit, or to the International Space Station. Several veteran astronauts are concerned about the immediate future of the U.S. space program.

"The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth," said Jim Lovell, who became one of the first astronauts to orbit the moon during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 as millions of people on Earth watched in awe. It put the U.S. space program closer to landing a man on the moon, something it accomplished a year later.

"I run into people now in their early 50s or 40s who were kids when I made my flights, and they say, ‘You know, you were the inspiration that got me into being an engineer, or scientist,' or something like that," said Lovell.

One of those inspired was Pamela Melroy, who became an astronaut and commanded the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2007.

"I believe Apollo inspired generations of students, and I think the Space Shuttle will too," said Melroy.

Lovell is concerned, though, that without a space shuttle, or a U.S.-made replacement vehicle, a new generation will not benefit from the inspiration and enthusiasm generated by a robust space program.

"I have been a critic of the way the space program is going because it’s been a major part of my life and I’d like to see it continue," he said. "I’m afraid that everything is going to bog down."

The end of the shuttle program began in 2003, when the orbiter Columbia disintegrated while returning to Earth. All seven astronauts died.  Melroy was on the team that investigated the disaster.

"I think the tragedy of Columbia was such a scar for all of us, that I think that there are a lot of people who believed the shuttle was ultimately too flawed to continue to fly," she said. "I’m not sure if I necessarily agree. I do think it was time to go on and go out of low Earth orbit, but I think the mishap did at least remind everybody that it is a dangerous business."

Another motive behind ending the shuttle program was the rising cost. NASA says the price tag for a shuttle launch is about $450 million. Lovell points out that the money funds jobs and spurs development on Earth.

"Not one cent is spent in space. It’s all spent right here on Earth. And it’s spent to do things that will result in new technology for not just activities in space, but that spread throughout the entire infrastructure of this country," said Lovell.

President Barack Obama unveiled his vision for the U.S. manned space flight program last year. It involves developing technology that will someday put an American on Mars, but not back on the moon. Melroy thinks that should be reconsidered.

"It’s really hard to make a six-month trip without at least a little bit of practice, so the moon is kind of an obvious choice. An asteroid is an equally obvious choice. I think actually they have technical pros and cons, but I think that you are going to see, before we make that giant leap, super giant leap, out to Mars, we’re going to have to practice somewhere first," said Melroy.

Obama’s vision for future space flight also encourages private companies to develop the next generation of vehicles that will put humans in orbit. Right now, U.S. astronauts will have to rely on Russian-built Soyuz space capsules to get to and from the International Space Station.

"And they are charging us $60 million apiece, but I kind of think that in the long run will be fairly inexpensive compared to all the money we are going to put into all these private people to do the same thing," he said.

NASA recently awarded $75 million to Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to develop a successor to the Space Shuttle. The company says its vehicle, which was successfully tested in December, can put astronauts into orbit at a cost of $20 million each. Their Dragon capsule will be able to carry the same compliment as a shuttle - seven people - into orbit at a time.

SpaceX plans to fly its first manned mission into space in 2014, three years after the last Space Shuttle orbits the Earth.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid