Four astronauts look back on shuttle experience
Jan Davis, Robert S. Kimbrough, Sandra Magnus and William McArthur Jr. all participated in NASA's space shuttle program.
December 30th, 2011
11:25 AM ET

Four astronauts look back on shuttle experience

We say goodbye this weekend to 2011, the year that marked the close of NASA's space shuttle program.

The Georgia Institute of Technology recently honored alumni who have participated in the space program at its annual football game against the University of Georgia. CNN Light Years caught up with four Tech alumni astronauts, who reflected on their space experiences:


William McArthur Jr. (Colonel)

Spaceflight experience: STS-58 Columbia (October 18 to November 1, 1993), STS-74 Atlantis (November 12 to 20, 1995), STS-92 Discovery (October 11 to 24, 2000), Expedition 12 to the International Space Station (September 30, 2005, to April 8, 2006)

What he does now: Director, safety and mission assurance, NASA Johnson Space Center

Fun fact: Spent about 190 days on the International Space Station on his last flight, as the commander and ISS science officer

Do you get claustrophobic living on ISS? “Not at all,” McArthur said. “We can utilize the entire inhabited volume” - in other words, the walls and ceiling, too, so you quadruple the usable area. “You don’t tend to get that same sense of being closed in.”

What’s it like? “It takes a really conscious effort to walk somewhere,” he said. “What you really do is, you float.” Basically, if you want to get somewhere, you gently push off from where you are and float to the next location. Unlike in swimming, where you’re actually propelling yourself by pushing against the water, you’re coasting.

“It was just exhilarating to wake up in the morning and open the little doors on my sleep cubicle and float sideways out, turn the lights on, float to the end of the module.”

On the end of the space shuttle program: “I think we all agree it was time to look forward,” McArthur said. “It was time to say, ‘Can we do something more?’ ”

“Let’s go somewhere and begin to establish a permanent human presence on another celestial body.”

On the retirement of the shuttles: “It will break our hearts to see them go to museums, but that’s where they ought to go,” he said. In fact, he told the curators, “We’re like parents who have been told we can’t afford to keep our children anymore, so we have to put them up for adoption. Please love them as much as we did.” And they will, McArthur said.

His future: “I am done with going in space. When I see my colleagues up there, I’m a little bit envious, but I really enjoy what I’m doing now. I think I had more than my fair share of opportunities.”

Sandra Magnus

Spaceflight experience: STS-112 Atlantis (October 7 to 18, 2002), STS-126 Endeavour (launched November 14, 2008, stayed on the International Space Station), STS-119 (landed on March 28, 2009), STS-135/ULF7 Atlantis (July 8 to 21, 2011)

What she does now: Still at NASA in the astronaut program

Fun fact: Was on the last flight of the shuttle program

On living on the International Space Station: “Being weightless is a big adjustment. You have to completely change how you do things. You have to keep track of your stuff at a whole other level,” she said.

“You have to be pretty organized. But then you’ve got these great views when you’re not working. You take a moment and pass over the Caribbean and take in all of the greens and blues.”

On the last shuttle mission: “The hardest thing was leaving the space station. When we docked, I felt like I was coming home. We opened the hatch, I immediately felt like I was home. It felt the same, it smelled the same, operations were the same, the environment was the same,” she said. “It was very hard to leave.”

N. Jan Davis

Spaceflight experience: STS-47 Endeavour (September 12 to 20, 1992), STS-60 Discovery (February 3 to 11, 1994), STS-85 Discovery (August 7 to 19, 1997)

What she does now: Works for Jacobs, a NASA contractor

On becoming an astronaut: “When I was young, it wasn’t possible” for a woman to go into space, Davis said.

“When I was growing up and even in college, there weren’t any women astronauts. [NASA] started selecting women in 1978. I was in grad school at that time. I decided that was something I wanted to pursue. It wasn’t anything I thought about when I was a young girl. You had to be military, and you had to be male.”

On the end of the shuttle program: “We as a nation don’t have the resources to have the shuttle and the next-generation rocket. We really need that next-generation rocket, and the only way to afford to do that was to cancel the shuttle. We need to make sure we build this rocket. We have ISS. We have people flying there right now. But we don’t really have human launch vehicles. We really need to do that program,” she said.

About commercial spaceflight: "I hope they have safe launches. We need that capability. I hope they’re successful."

Robert "Shane" Kimbrough (Colonel)

Spaceflight experience: STS-126 Endeavour (November 14 to 30, 2008)

What he does now: Still in the astronaut program, robotics branch chief for the Astronaut Office

First time in space: “Unbelievable,” Kimbrough said. “I felt like I was right where I always wanted to be. I was well trained. I wasn’t scared sitting on the launch pad, I was ready to go.”

On seeing Earth from afar: “I think it just strengthened my views and my values. We’re pretty darn insignificant when you look at the Earth from that viewpoint.”

“It’s borderless up there,” he adds. “No fighting going on up there. No busyness, even. I certainly brought that back with me. Maybe there’s hope one day that we can stop all this busyness and wars and things around our planet and get along.”

End of the shuttle program: “Most of us were big space shuttle fans. It’s just tough to end that era of the space program. We’re certainly moving on. Hopefully, we’re going to have bigger and better things down the road.”

Life post-shuttle: “We’re still training. Our job hasn’t changed a whole lot. The wait to fly in space has changed. With the shuttles around, we flew maybe every two to three years, but now, with only the Russian vehicle around, it takes about five to six years in between flights, because this line is very slow, and it’s very long.”

And he’s learning to speak Russian, both colloquially and technically, which is challenging. “We go to Russia and train about half the time instead of just being in Houston,” he said.

What’s the hardest part of being in the space program? “It’s like you’re back in school again. You have exams and evaluations. You’re constantly getting looked at and evaluated. Balancing that with kids and family life is the biggest challenge.”

Do you want to go to Mars? “I think I’ll be a little too old once we go to Mars,” Kimbrough said. “I would love to go to the moon, mainly because I grew up watching that as a kid. I think that would be a cool way to end my career, but I’m not sure that will happen either. Just to fly in space and continue exploring, and continue to help mankind here on Earth.”

On displaying the shuttles in museums: “I wish we would keep at least one or two down there - just in case we needed them, kind of thing  - but it looks like they’re de-servicing all of them and they’ll be put in museums, which is great for the country and the world to be able to go see them and continue to revel in the marvels that the space shuttle did."

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Filed under: In Space • People in Orbit
soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. bman

    Ok the shuttles can go to a museum, but it has to be a museum in Space that they help build. They serve no useful purpose here on the planet, but in the meantime they could serve as interorbit transport vehicles, and construction workhorses. Putting them in mothballs here on earth is so Shortsighted we need Lasik surgery to correct it.

    December 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Carl C

      That's a really bad idea. Why in the world would you want an "inter-orbit transfer vehicle" that has hundreds of tons of mass in wings, tiles, and other elements that only exist so that it can re-enter the atmosphere and land on Earth? Besides the fact that this vehicle is not designed to remain in space indefinitely, it would be a horrendous waste of fuel.

      December 31, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  2. dougaussie

    the fact is there is no life in our solar system except us. Therefore if you intend going to the next solar system, space shuttles and liquid fuel just isn't going to do it., that's the truth. And it is stupid to suggest putting people in some sort of suspended state for hundreds of years to go somewhere on the off chance there's a habitable planet. Right now we should be spending billions on examining faster than light travel by magnetic fields, black holes, dark matter or whatever because that is the only future for space travel.

    December 31, 2011 at 4:42 am |
    • Carl C

      Perhaps true to some extent, but faulty logic. There are other reasons to visit other worlds than the fact that they might have life. We can be that life, settle other worlds, and open up a new frontier that will drive innovation and provide a hopeful future for generations that follow.

      As for getting there, chemical propultion is adequate to get us to Mars. Once we have established settlements, there will be a driver to develop advanced propulsion systems like those you describe. North America, like other regions, was settled using relatively primitive sailing vessels. Once the frontier was opened and a need was established for faster transportation, shipbuilding technology advanced quickly. If the Europeans had waited for steamships and 747s before venturing across the sea, I don't think there would be anyone named "dougaussie" posting comments in 2011.

      December 31, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Junius Gallio

      > the fact is there is no life in our solar system except us.

      And you know this ... how? We have not examined all, or even most, of the planets (and other objects that can harbor life) in our solar system.

      > we should be spending billions on examining faster than light travel

      Faster-than-light travel is not physically possible. C'mon, Doug, do some basic science reading!

      December 31, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  3. KnowsMore123

    science and space is for nerds and losers

    December 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Terry D.

      lol, obviously you're trolling.🙂

      But, maybe I'm wrong and you live in a cave eating bugs. Because otherwise, you're enjoying the many fruits of science.🙂

      December 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • eqcm

      really and what is your big claim to fame.

      December 30, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Skipper

      Remember: PLEASE DON'T FEED THE TROLLS.

      December 31, 2011 at 1:20 am |
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    December 30, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Mark

      When you are off your meds, I have to be on mine. Dayum. Good luck with the next Bilderberg meeting.

      December 30, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Junius Gallio

      Where is the "Report Abuse" button when you need it?

      December 31, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  5. mark

    This nation is full of idiots! We should still be flying the Space Shuttles... Just look at all these stupid comments, both posters and kiss azz astronauts... Someone should stand up for what is right, not because they are just suppost to fall inline behind an idoit president....

    December 30, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Jeffrey Root

      When 2 out of 5 space shuttles blow up, you know they were a bad idea in the first place.

      December 30, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
      • Terry D.

        The shuttle is the single, most complicated vehicle ever assembled by man, and only a few were made. Of course some are going to fail, it's the most ambitious spacecraft ever designed. Each time the reasons for failure were thoroughly investigated and the shuttles / procedures were modified to make sure that mode of failure never repeats. No launch with the old O rings during freezing weather, escape capability added, vehicle re-entry tile inspection in orbit wtih a new camera on a boom and by the ISS astronauts, ability to repair tile and insulation damage in space. In other words, we learn from our mistakes and improve continuously. The mistakes were to build only 5 and to retire them before we have a replacement ready to fly. We're now dependent on the Russians to get men to our own space station. How stupid is that?

        December 30, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
      • eqcm

        guess we should park all the cars too then.

        December 30, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Austin78794b

      AI is not yet up to the point where machines can think and possibly recognize something new they encounter that may create new industries back here – they have shall we say very limited vision. Rather strange, much of the spinoffs from manned flight have been incorporated in most aspects of today’s society without acknowledgement. Stranger still is much of our technologies have been acquired one way or another to help build the Chinese economy and their influence on our economy (or is it corporate greed that moved jobs overseas; lobbyists that no politicians, ah, should say corporate advocates, will not restrict; or the same folks in Washington that don’t want to raise taxes on the rich because it would kill job growth (believe that and I have a bridge in New York I can sell you).
      If we need to borrow money from other countries and cut education and health programs then we need to ensure everyone pays their fair share of taxes. Why not direct monies into growing new small business firms here in the USA, say like new manufacturing firms instead of selling the assets of closed manufactories to overseas interests. Call it grants, an investment in the future, to start new manufacturing, and new technology industries with a restriction. No money or tax benefits would be granted to any new business proposal if anyone in that business has been associated in anyway running a corporation of more than $50 million in the last two years (here is where you can give your tax breaks and start creating jobs) provided the business does not become an acquisition of a larger corporation.
      Definitely some risk, but so is everything. Why not make sure any manager or CEO of a new business using federal monies has certification as Project Managers (meaning:- accountability, code of ethics, planning on what can be accomplished within allotted time and money). Food for thought?
      Oh, going back to space exploration,, watch small firms like SpaceX grow to become major players in our economy before someone in Washington restricts their actions for reasons, say, pertaining to National Security (or corporation and trade security).
      Sorry if I’m rambling,

      December 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • MrBarrack

      Sure we are at a loss by canceling the program short term, but if you look at it long term, this is the right move. I thought the same thing you did until I wrote a few papers on the subject. It all boils down to the fact that we have really learned all we can given the shuttle's, and more importantly, the rockets' range and capabilities. We still are by far the most advanced country in terms of space knowledge and exploration, we just need to develop the next generation of space exploration vehicle, and that will take all of our resources to finish as quickly and efficiently as possible.

      December 31, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  6. Jack lytwynec

    Why send people? Unmanned missions are much more effective at exploring outer space at a fraction of the cost.

    December 30, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • MrBarrack

      Because the overall goal is to establish a manned laboratory on mars to conduct more in depth tests. It also saves time when you can collect samples and conduct complex texts without having to send the sample back from mars to earth.

      December 31, 2011 at 3:01 am |
      • Buzz light year

        Unmanned spacecrafts can and do analyze the samples locally and do so over the course of years. Manned missions return less science yet cost orders of magnitude more. Still looking for a valid argument for sending people.

        December 31, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  7. joey

    what do you mean we dont have any money, look at all these checks !!!

    December 30, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  8. AZLib

    What a true waste of money. There is NO REASON for manned missions to outter space other than to feed billions of $$$ into the pockets of Boeing and other military contractors who in turn feed their republican lap dogs. True stupidity, no value... what did the space station actually get us? NOTHING, what did the shuttle get us... really??? NOTHING.. Let some other stupid country with tons of money to waste perform such sillyiness and waste maybe china. Let it hurt their economy.. Before planning even one more manned space fllight just save time... next time we have a forest fire fly over and dump a trillion dollars... it will give us just as much in return and who knows might actually put out the fire in the process.

    December 30, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Carl C

      Please refer us to your analysis that shows that there was no return on any money spent in space exploration, manned or otherwise, and while you are at it tell us where it would have been better spent.

      December 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • noname

      This shuttle space program is an intangible investment. A specialty that makes US a mentor for space exploration of other countries.

      December 30, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  9. Bill

    Fact is, we need to put the so-called space program on the back burner til we can get our economic house in order. To suggest that it will generate jobs is a half-truth; college prof's and scientists and selected hi-tech industries may get a boost but right now, today, we need things like infrastructure redevelopment and construction to put the average guy back to work. Joe plumber types who need jobs and industries who support housing/construction, etc need those federal dollars – not the space nuts. It's a nice persuit when we have the money to spare...not right now!

    December 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • John

      Yes. Of all the things we could put on the back burner, the one that makes the most sense is the one that costs 0.6% of our budget and advances our knowledge as a species. That 0.6% that we get back will be helpful... for... umm... later. Yes.

      December 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • angryed

      Space efforts do yield positive results...pure scientific study and striving to do ever more difficult tasks in space supports many good jobs here in America for college grads like engineers as well as skilled tradesmen....the knowledge gained from manned spaceflight as well as the advancemnts in materials and electronics are noteworthy...the results may not balance the budget sheet but advancing our knowledge through spaceflight does have its benefits..for all humans

      December 30, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • u2canbfmj

      Oh bout starting with all these trillion dollar wars on the back burner first. I feel safe already.

      December 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Taz

      Your right...you probably don't use your cell phone, microwave and countless other appliances and things you take for granted daily in your life which were directly developed as a result of efforts towards the space program and national defense. I suggest we cut all defense spending and space exploration and pay our debts and craw under a rock and not think about tomorrow at all. Good plan. Sorry...not trying to make you mad...just alot of people don't realize how much we as a society have benefited from discoveries made from teh space program which was put to practical use.

      December 30, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Dude

      Look at almost any industry that has exploded since 1969. VCRs, TVs, cell phones, computers, internet etc. And how about the safety of automobiles between 1969 and 2011.

      All of these advances happened because of engineers. Ask 1000 engineers what inspired them to study engineering and the number one answer will be NASA.

      I work in the IT field, dealing with massive computer networks. I decided I wanted to work in the tech field watching Gemini and Apollo launches.

      Today, China graduates twice the number of engineers as the US per capita. When you consider that they have three times the US population, there are six new Chinese engineers for every one American engineer.

      Guess who will be designing the future?

      Plus all the tangible results of the space program.

      December 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  10. jimzcarz

    We should set up a space vessel like a Harrior Jet or whatever they're called.. Vertical takeoff's and landings.
    Keep it docked at the station till mars orbit is close then deploy every 18months.

    December 30, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Mark

      Bringing back something like the VentureStar project with a Single Stage to Orbit scheme would be good.

      December 30, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  11. w l jones

    If NASA reduce the size of space shulttle send up refuiel tank and kick it out of earth gravity it wont have trouble going to moon or to mars. Once catulate where these planet at time and speed will be cool sailing from there on.

    December 30, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  12. Chris

    I work in the space program, and trust me when I tell you that the engineers out here DO NOT Make as much money as they would in private industry. With all the post-Shuttle layoffs I witnessed career aerospace engineers too young for retirement, too old to start fresh, going through their savings and timing out of unemployment. These are brilliant minds going to waste, and age discrimination is alive and well in the US. Who wants to hire a 57 year-old aerospace engineer? Oil and Gas seems to be the only industry willing to take a chance on our folks, but that's another volatile area. Our astronauts are brave pioneers, as are our engineers. Don't think for one minute that anyone was stockpiling cash, it doesn't pay well enough.

    December 30, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  13. Deep North

    Where the heck is MY jet pack?

    December 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  14. USBstupido

    China could beat the hell our of the US if we had a war today....u idtealist turds had better grow past your kindergarten years and take off your tinfoil pointed hats! Ur a bunch of ignorant lemmings!

    December 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • seraphim01

      I love the fact that the troll talking about ignorance is using text speak. Speaks volumes to your own intelligence.

      December 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • AO1JMM

      It wouldnt be an easy war but the US would definately not be beaten. YOu obviously know nothing about the Chinese military and its capability.

      December 30, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • UBstupido

      Your comments are in insult to me and the rest of our fighting forces. I have no doubt we can defeat the Chinese Communists...large numbers do not denote superiority. Of course, we must ensure that we continue to build our military and fund our troops, something the Obama administration wants not to do.

      December 30, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
      • Taz

        No.....his comment was just an insult at you. I am a member of the armed forces, a military academy graduate with two trips in Iraq running convoys and training Iraqi Police...one of which I received a Bronze Star (alot of us did so nothing special there)...the only insult towards our military was the one you made outright about not being able to beat China. I'm not going to run my mouth and say that we would or would not and that it would be easy or difficult. The fact is, if our two countries went to war, it would probably have a more devestating outcome than if we had gone to war with the Soviet Union in 1980's...so lets hope none of us ever have to find out. He is right though, there is a difference between writing intelligently on a post and typing a text to a friend. If you truly are a member of the military I am extremely proud to be a part of, please learn the diifference before you embarass us all again.

        December 31, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Gravityrules

      China would win a war against the US? With what? Your first and only aircraft carrier that happens to be an ancient Russian hand me down? Too funny! Get an education

      December 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • angryed

      You sound delusional or heavily medicated..or both.....bless your heart!!!

      December 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Dude

      China has one thing going for it's military. A huge and dedicated standing army. They do not have any way of getting those troops on the ground in the US and we aren't going to go on the ground there.

      What will make the difference if war broke out:
      Aircraft carriers: America has the advantage by a long shot.
      Submarines: China has a few advanced subs that are quite impressive. America has a fleet of more advanced subs.
      Stealth planes: America has the advantage by a long shot.
      Precision guide bombs: America has the advantage by a long shot.
      Cruise missiles: America has the advantage by a long shot.
      Nuclear warheads: America has the advantage by a long shot.
      Nuclear delivery systems: America has the advantage by a long shot.
      And missile defense systems: America has the advantage by a long shot.
      Chicken dishes named after generals: China wins on this one.
      Chicken dishes named after Colonel: America.
      Super computers: America has the advantage by a long shot.
      Spy satellites: America has the advantage by a long shot in both number and sophistication.

      Who stands to win by not going to war: Both side by a long shot.

      December 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
      • Gabor

        How do you even know what CHINA has?
        WIKI? The fact your comparing the US to China already shows we have something to be concerned about.

        December 30, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
      • Gabor

        PLUS, even a few advanced subs can take out the entire eastern or western side of our nation.

        December 30, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  15. USBstupido

    I'd say asternutz should start drkining heavily and playing the stock market with all that cash they stockpiled while gyrating around the earth!

    December 30, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Carl C

      Go away, troll.

      December 30, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
      • USBstupido

        go and suck ur momma's tieat!

        December 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  16. Bill

    The space program as we have come to know it has turned out to be a pleasant diversion from the harsh realities of everyday living in America. Back when the program was pumped up during the Kennedy go-go era, things were very upbeat and relative prosperity was within everyones grasp but things now make the space program a nice memory of better times and to spend dollars to employ a relatively select group of employees and foster a few rather specialized industries is hardly appropriate right now. The people who need work aren't the college prof's and scientists, etc. – they're regular joe-plumber types, and any federal dollars need to be pumped into things like our falling-apart infrastructure, etc, which would generate LOTS of jobs among the working-class population and rejuvenate the building sector as well. Space nuts will have to wait....we need employment for the masses not the scientific/intellectual set!
    Shelve our space effort for now ....back-burner, til things get rolling again.

    December 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Andy

      Bill, you make sense but there is a larger picture to consider. China is graduating 3X as many engineers than than us because they know technology is the cornerstone of any successful country....history tells that tale. Education is the key for retaining our technological edge in the world. Furthermore I bet most plumbers would rather be designing the plumbing systems of spacecraft and earning that paycheck as opposed fixing a leaky toilet.

      December 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
      • USBstupido

        Only if Ron Paul, who knows how to save money and knows the value of a dollar is elected with the US space program have another chance. And that would be ten years from now after the budget is back to possibly being balanced. U space pioneers that think that asternutz are god's gift to humanity had better grow a dayum brain before you badmouth me! Ur all a bunch of idealistic whitetrash idiots with maybe a smattering of blacks thrown in.!

        December 30, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Xen1313

      Bill I would agree with you if it weren't for the fact that the budget for the Space Program is pennies on the dollar, compared to the last 2 wars we are fighting. Plus, you fail with the idea that only scientist and intellectuals get hired at NASA, each and everyone of those rockets were manufactured by the lowest bidder, who hired the average joe to make. Plus all the sattelite businesses that were needed to help support the space program. Truck drivers to deliver the fuel and parts, miners to pull the resources out of the ground to make the rare earth metals that make up the space craft, metal press operators to stamp the metals into shape. We are talking thousands of jobs that don't require a degree. (forklift ops, heavy machinery drivers, hotel and restraunts, welders and the list goes on) You want to get serious about the issues at home, stop supporting pliticians that send men and equipment overseas, and start supporting those that would use those men and equipment to remodernize America. Too bad our corporate handlers will never let a canidate like that succeed. If the 4 Trillion for the wars were spent on Infrastructure, Education and Manufacturing, we would be in a completely different place than we are right now and we wouldn't have had to tank the space agency to do it...

      December 30, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Terry D.

      Bill, I hear what you're saying about people struggling but they're not struggling because of NASA. Nasa is a tiny sliver of the federal budget (about 0.5%) which also includes the "A" in NASA standing for aeronautics research, making us safe as we fly. So taking ALL of NASA's money and adding it to the huge pile of social spending wouldn't make much of a difference.

      Also, please consider that every NASA employee buys food, fuel, pays taxes, and has to hire plumbers, electricians, and carpenters from time to time. The money isn't shot into space, it remains here.

      And finally, space technology is crucial to our survival as a nation and a species. That and genetic engineering are possibly the two most important things that humans do.

      December 30, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • jmsbois

      "Hardly appropriate"? I'd say maintaining our technological edge is the MOST appropriate thing to do. NASA's budget is a tiny fraction of our expenditures. Putting NASA on the back-burner would be a short sighted mistake driven by politics, not reason.

      December 30, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Christine

      When things get rolling again, the US would be so far back in science and innovation that catching up would be very tough. Science and innovation actually creates jobs, and not only in universities. Many discoveries in universities lead to new companies, and therefore new jobs at all levels (scientific, administration, accounting, marketing, manufacturing, maintenance).
      Also, most colleges of medicine are funded though research. Most university professors only get a small % of their salary from teaching, the rest comes from their research activity. You stop research, that means you close those colleges and stop training not only tomorrow's scientists, but also tomorrow's physicians.
      What made the US great was a sense of innovation and risk-taking. I find it really sad that a large proportion of the public now just wants to sit and claim to be the greatest without working at it. You can only be the greatest if you keep up the innovation.

      December 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  17. Xen1313

    I would still like to know how going back to an Apollo era space craft is moving our space program forward. The Space Launch System is nothing more than an update to 1960's technology. This is sad, we had a real opprotunity to continue to lead the world in space, but like everything else we lead the world in, we are declining. Not because we are not smart enough, but because we let private corporations dictate government policy through the lobby system. Even Reagan knew the importance of controlling space. Look up Project Thor, and wonder why we are not keeping a stong presents in space.

    December 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Carl C

      The Space Shuttle, while technologically impressive, never delivered on its promises to make space travel cheaper and safer. Those guys in the 1960's knew a thing or two, and updating that technology to the 21st Century is not a step back. We have the technology now to go back to the Moon and on to Mars, and opening up those frontiers will lead to new technological advancements, not the other way around. The tragedy of the last 40 years is that we have had a stagnant space program that hasn't "pushed the envelope" as we did in the 1960's, and thus return on investment, while still good, was not what it could have been.

      December 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
      • Xen1313

        We have had the capability to go to the moon and beyond since before Reagan. We did it already, multiple times. It just seems backwards to me to go from a 7-8 man vehicle back down to a 3 man vehicle. I don't care what you put in it to update it. We could have just updated the Shuttles and been self reliant. Instead, even after the updates to the Capsule, we have to send a second rocket up just to give them the equipment and materials to work on while they are up there. 1 launch vehicle(shuttle) vs. 2 launches (capsule and heavy load lifter), this seems to me, it would be more expensive to do. And I bet we get Russia, China or EU to do part of it. As it stands right now, we could effectively be cut off from space. And all it would take is one international incident to spoil our chance of sending astronauts to space before our updated appolo capsule is ready. How much sceince and engineering leadership will we have then in the space race?

        December 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
      • Carl C

        Xen1313 – The newer capsules will be able to hold more astronauts in greater comfort and safety. The shuttle has a meager 15% payload capacity and cannot go beyond low Earth orbit. Why would you take it to the Moon where it cannot land? Separating crew from cargo, and launching from atop the booster and not the side is a huge safety improvement. Despite the earlier technology we didn't lose any Apollo astronauts on launch or return; there is a reason for that. Yes there are two launches instead of one, but what is important is the total tonnage you are sending up, and most of the Shuttle (orbiter) would be completely useless for a Moon mission, so your argument makes no sense.

        December 30, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
      • Josh

        A significant reason why the Shuttle never realized those promises, is the Pentagon. They got involved with the Shuttle design, and demanded changes be made to serve their military requirements. I'll mention that this included a separate Shuttle launch facility, and was completed (at tax payer's expense) and never used for a shuttle launch; not even once.

        If the Pentagon didn't get involved, we would have a significantly better Shuttle, one more appropriate for scientific LEO missions.

        December 30, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
      • Josh

        Carl C, those newer capsules can't land on the moon either.

        The newer capsules are, once again, a compromise design. "Jack of all trades, master of none" The requirements for a capsule for LEO, are quite different from a capsule that will go to the moon, and quite different from a capsule that will go to Mars. Building one design, for all uses, is foolish. IMHO, we need to focus on LEO, and if we ever think of going back to the moon, build a new capsule for those unique requirements.

        December 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
      • Carl C

        Josh – correct, you need a LEM (or ideally the updated equivalent) to land on the Moon. However, the point is that the Shuttle orbiter has much more mass than a capsule, and that mass is useless beyond LEO. I'll take the simple, safe, cost-effective capsule over the Shuttle any day.

        December 30, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
      • Xen1313

        It’s been estimated that launching material on the space shuttle costs about $10,000/pound ($22,000/kg). http://www.universetoday(dot)com/25431/why-cant-we-launch-garbage-into-space/

        Appolo Program cost 170billion (adjusted by 2005 inflation) Start to finish. 17 Flights.

        Space Shuttle Program cost of US$192 billion (in 2010 dollars) Start to finish. 134 flights.

        The Apollo Program was more expensive and was specialized to just goto the moon. The Shuttle Program was specialized for LEO, and had a greater range of capabilities. Also, the Orion capsule, is being designed for only 4 people to fit in it. Check it out. We are going to spend more on this that the entire Shuttle program and won't have a manned mission until 2019, or start "exploring" again until 2025. As for the apollo missions not having any casualties, they only had to get it right 17 times. 2 accidents in 134 flights is pretty damn good.

        December 30, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
      • Carl C

        Adjusted for inflation, NASA's average Apollo-era (1961-73) budget, was about $19 billion a year in 2010 dollars, or 5% more than NASA's recent budget. During that era they not only developed the capability to land on the Moon nearly from scratch, using an aggressive timeline, but launched numerous successful planetary exploration missions. I say we got much more bang for our buck back then, both in technological innovation but perhaps more importantly in inspring our youth to study engineering and science. The Shuttle era, to a large extent, succeeded in making space ho-hum.

        As for capability, the shuttle can go to LEO and nowhere else. Capsules can go to LEO and also to the Moon, asteroids, and other destinations (yes, you'll need a LEM to land on the Moon, regardless).

        I would argue both systems are relatively safe, though I don't see how it can be argued that it is less safe to be on top of the booster than on the side, where you are more likely to be struck by debris or blown to bits by an o-ring failure. Challenger and Columbia proved that. There are excellent reasons for going back to a capsule.

        December 30, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  18. Bill

    Perhaps one day astronauts will finally walk on the moon instead of just making movies about it. Now that would be exciting!

    December 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • JimboJones

      Troll-of-the-day award goes to YOU for being such an ignorant boob. And don't say it was sarcasm. You know you were being serious, you consipracy nut-job, you.

      December 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Carl C

      Hopefully Bill is kidding and doesn't believe that, but in case he or anyone else reading this does, I would point out that the bigger the conspiracy the less likely it isto be true, due to the number of individuals that would have to keep quiet. In this case, to fake several moon landings, there are thousands with direct knowledge and certainly one would have broken silence by now. Google "Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy" if you are inclined to believe that nonsense.

      December 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
      • pooh2

        And photos from satellites show the foot steps.

        December 30, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • USBstupido

      Unlike Capricorn One, in which the Mars trip was a fake, I do think that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were rthe first to the moon, the former mentioned actually walking on it. Armstrong was the first. It was an amazing accomplishment made when this country had its mind in gear. It has lost that ability lately and I do not know if it will ever recover. I would sincerely hope that it did recover that standard of living. In 1969, we had reached the zenith of our success despite the failures of some political and one civil rights assassination that happened that should not have occurred prior to then!

      December 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  19. Nighthhaaawk

    Say what you will about the space program, it was used by John F. Kennedy to pump the economy and create jobs in the 1960's. Why aren't we doing this again??

    December 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Carl C

      Because we are governed by short-sighted, self-serving fools.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Carl C

      We need to inspire the next generation to aim for something higher. Check out a new SF novel called "In the Shadow of Ares" if you are looking for a little inspiration for yourself or a young adult that doesn't involve vampires or zombies.

      December 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Josh

      Nighthhaaawk, absolutely correct.

      The alternative, is to do what FDR did, and use a World War to pump the economy and create jobs.

      Given those two options, IMHO, Space is the better choice.

      December 30, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  20. dbrock

    Did Obama really have the power to save NASA? If he did, he should be ashamed. If not, then what's the point of blaming him? Blame it on the ones responsible, whoever they are.

    December 30, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Nighthhaaawk

      I am sure if George Bush was still president, people would be blaming HIM for a lack of science leadership. We as a country are excusing ourselves into becoming a second banana in world leadership. China will soon have all the prestige on a global level once held by the United States. Our contant infighting has been used by other countires to their advantage. Thanks to free trade agreements and other costly mistakes, we have given away the American dream.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
      • Howard

        The truth is, the space program was borne from cold war fears we were being beaten by the Russians. It came at a time when satellites had only recently started circling the Earth and people were excited by it all. I doubt JFK or anyone else could sell an expanded space program to today's America. It's old news; no one even really cares what the Chinese are planning to do.

        As for going to Mars, why? It's a dead planet with too little gravity to hold its own atmosphere and too little an electromagnetic shield to protect it from solar wind. The only valid reason to go to Mars would just to be able to say we made the trip. Considering the enormous cost and risk, it seems dubious at best.

        December 30, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Carl C

      There's been a leadership vacuum for 40 years.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  21. USBstupido

    US asternutz were told to go back to their day jobs, whether they be sanitation engineers, shoeshine persons, or waiting in the unemployment line to pick up their unemployment checks!

    December 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • John B

      I hate when I go to read some of the comments and the first one I see is this stupid.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
      • Shane

        Ditto!!!!!!!!!!!

        December 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
      • C G

        Agreed!

        December 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
      • USBstupido

        ur lyin....ur just jealous because u take all this BS so seriously, and are too ignorant to face the facts. Do u actually think that mankind is ever going to get to another planet? Not for another 1000 years at the way this country wastes money on all but such items as space exploration!

        December 30, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Nighthhaaawk

      BTW.. I think you should change you name to "I B ELStupido" its non-thinkers that no longer take pride in their fellow citizens or the meaning of a good education or truly dedicating onself to a meaningful purpose in life. Keep lurlking and trolling – ultimately no one here will care for more than five minutes that you waste a perfectly useful life ( YOURS! ) throwing out "clever" sentences that show perfect strangers how you are wasting your ( potential ) intelligence. Hope you wake up soon, and get to see the sun. Me – I'm leaving – got better things to do..

      December 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
      • Carl C

        Agree totally.

        December 30, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
      • USBstupido

        ur nothing but a homegrown moron! Take that to the bank and buy some fireworks for New Years!

        December 30, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  22. Greg

    Time shut NASA down! They squandered BILLIONS and we get nothing in return This cold war relic needs to be moth balled.

    December 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Tom

      We got nothing in return for the entire space program??? Have you forgotten to take your medication again, or are you just trolling? Either way, your comment is ridiculous.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Carl C

      Come back after you get educated, Greg. The space program has returned amazing tangible and intangible benefits. Even a mission that "fails", such as a couple of the earlier Mars probes, provides jobs to US engineers and aerospace companies that has a positive ripple effect in our economy, much more so than the vast majority of other government programs.

      December 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Doug

      Between the advances in robotics, medicine, agriculture, and international relations (there are more, I just cant think of them) I dont see how anyone could say that NASA is a failure. Yes, there was red tape that caused a lot of over spending in some areas, but that happens with any large agency (sadly). Do you also believe that there have been no advances from the Military (simple examples being our Highway system, or basically anything that happens in an ER)? The two agencies are similiar to each other in regards to their R&D and those effects on the world. Check out the website "howstuffworks" for a lot of examples, but some simple ones are memory foam (the stuff in a lot of mattresses now), cordless tools, satellites (do you have a cell phone?), MRI technology, and thousands of others.

      December 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
      • Doug

        My apologies, I didnt mean to say failure, I meant to say "how can you say we get nothing in return".

        December 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  23. USBstupid

    US assternutz were told to go back to their day jobs, whether they be sanitation engineer, yardbirds, or tailpipers!!!

    December 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  24. Shane

    The US needs to develop and foster a symbiotic relationship with China because they're too big to be at odds with them militarily. We could also experiment with their astronauts more freely than with American astronauts and OSHA . Besides, they did invent the won ton.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • USBstupido

      and sesame chicken and noodles, and chow mein and I love all of it!!! Plust they make good counterfeit US coins!!! US collectors get duped on a daily basis buying them for millions of US dollars!!!

      December 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  25. ken

    Did anyone ask? Is Obama the most knowledge challenged President in history and is Obama the most non-supportive President of Science and Knowledge in history? They'd probably answer "YES"!

    December 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • USBstupido

      Obama graduated Harvard on a race report card with highly embellished grades that they spotted his race 40 or 50 points over the same tests tiven to other races!

      December 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Ed

      And what are we basing this absurd conclusion on? That he was editor of Havard Law Review? Easing restrictions on stem-cell research? Actually listening to climatologists? Do tell...

      December 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • John B

      Oh please. Had he asked to fund it you would be on his case for spending money.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Ed

      Stupido is fitting.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Christine

      Obama's proposed budget contains a lot more money for research than the GOP-lead congress proposed budget.
      In the past 30 years, democrats have always funded science and research more then republicans have. Just check the budgets year after year for NASA, NIH, and NSF.

      December 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  26. Salahuddin

    Two must reads of 2011. Theruggedgent(dot)com, a website put together by a bunch of expat madmen and Along the Naktong a novel by Joshua Lorenzo Newett about the existential crisis in which the post modern individual finds themselves.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Pheroc

      From what i can tell there is nothing all that crazy about "theruggedgent(dot)com" Explain your thoughts

      December 30, 2011 at 6:55 pm |

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