Follow along with our resident Astronaut Encounter astronauts, and learn about the experiences they've had as a member of NASA's astronaut corps. They'll share their stories about training, spaceflight, launch and landing, and their most exciting memories of being among the few who have flown in space.
Our Next Generation...
by: Astronaut Bob Springer
May 17, 2010
Just completed seven great days of presenting information about the U.S. Space Program to enthusiastic groups of visitors to KSC, including a significant number of student groups. Several things stood out this week. The students I met were just outstanding—polite, intelligent, and yes—still very interested in what is going on in our space program. The best part of what I can represent as feedback from the students is that despite the tailoff of the shuttle program and the lack of an immediate replacement vehicle, they are still very enthusiastic about the future of the space program. The students have an interesting perception of the long term prospects and do not seem overly concerned about the short term fallout. Keep in mind that the majority of the students I talked to were pre-teen to young teenagers—but their optimism was wonderful. A note of interest, clearly not all of them want to be astronauts, but many have interests in other aspects of the space program—from the hard sciences to robotics, future propulsion systems (had to remind them that “warp drive” does not yet exist), and wide ranging aspects of science and technology. It was most refreshing to have those discussions.
It was also interesting during the week to have conversations with a large segment of international visitors. This group was equally interested in all aspects of human spaceflight, but not nearly as optimistic about the future as the younger generation. That said, it has always been interesting to me to hear so many positive comments about the space program in general, and the U.S. component in particular. That said, there was an over riding concern about the current state of affairs within the U.S. political system for the lack of visible, near term support of human space flight. Nice to know that somebody out there cares.
The week was capped off by the launch of STS 132. Seeing Atlantis soar into the afternoon sky on what is potentially her last mission was a little bitter sweet. My last flight was on Atlantis—lots of fond memories.
All in all, a great week. I have to treasure the optimism of the students—our next generation of space explorers.
Space is Still the Place…
by: Astronuat Scott Parazynski
May 3, 2010
If you ever had any doubts about the power of the space program to inspire, they would have completely evaporated these past few days at the KSC Visitor Complex, where I gave a number of talks at the Astronaut Encounter. My own passion for space began at age 5, growing up in the shadow of Apollo and my father’s work on the program. Although our present day space shuttle is about to retire and the path ahead for human spaceflight is less than clear, Americans will continue to fly into space on one vehicle or another — and a new generation of young explorers is watching and waiting for their turn. My little friend Will, a 5-year-old that came with his parents to hear me speak, was fully decked out in his space suit. Go for launch!
Prior to each of my presentations at the Astronaut Encounter theater, a beautiful film that highlights NASA’s 50 years of achievement (as well as the painful losses of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia) is screened. The film closes with a quote from our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt. He described my philosophy on the good life with a clarity I’d never be able to muster:
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Exactly, what he said. Period.
It was great to be back at the Cape, and to work with the fine folks at the Visitor Complex. Nick, Livia, Jon and many other staff members took great care of me, and will host you well should you make a trip of your own. And I suggest you do so, ideally in time to see one of our final space shuttle launches…
As I was headed down to dinner on my final night in Cocoa Beach, a very familiar face boarded the elevator. “Al? Hi, my name’s Scott Parazynski, you may not remember me, but I think you’re taking over for me as the Duty Astro at KSC tomorrow!” Al Worden, Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot and larger-than-life hero, was right down the hall from me in the hotel! It was a thrill to speak with him briefly and thus “pass the microphone.” He was headed out to visit the legendary but severely ailing Guenter Wendt, former Pad Leader for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Prayers for comfort going out to Mr. Wendt and his family in this difficult time…