Veteran Astronaut Story Musgrave

The only person to fly on all five space shuttle orbiters.

Air & Space Magazine

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A&S: What could we do to build on the foundation laid by the shuttle?

Musgrave: Whatever we want to do. We are incredibly mature now. We are incredibly sophisticated, and we have learned how to operate a very difficult thing. If we went back, and did a simpler machine, we’d do an even better job. So we can do what we want now—it doesn’t mean we leave for Mars. There are things we don’t know about. Space radiation we have no fix for. We don’t even have a decent proposal for how to deal with radiation. We need a closed ecological system. We have to have plants onboard. It’s a different psychology going to Mars, with Earth becoming a little bright star out there. You know you can’t come home. So there are things about going to the planets we haven’t yet dealt with.

A&S: Do you plan to attend either of the final two shuttle launches or acknowledge them in some way?

Musgrave: I’ll kneel down, face east, and say a prayer. I do a hundred appearances a year, and with the shuttle dates moving all the time, I can’t block that date. When I get a call to do an appearance, I sign up and do it. If it falls on a shuttle date, then I don’t make it.

A&S: How do you feel about the Obama administration’s cancellation of the Ares/Constellation program?

Musgrave: The entire future of space policy—it’s dead. It’s absolutely dead. It’s nothing. They killed it. They killed not only Ares—I guess Orion’s going to have a lighter weight version to be the rescue boat to get back to the space station. But, no, the whole thing is dead. The program should not be evaluated in terms of people’s opinion: It should be evaluated by looking at hard reference points. And there is only one real reference point, and that is the 1960s. Kennedy said go to the moon: Four years later, a Saturn lifted off. Now that’s how to do business. And it was Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo within eight years, and we did it right.

With 45-year hindsight, we look at how we did it, and it turns out we did it right. Innovation is driven by necessity. Kennedy simply said go. He didn’t lead the team. He said just do it. It was nuts. We had no infrastructure. We had no technology—we had nothing. But we did it. We had the best project management the world has ever seen.

There is no project management talked about or in place for the future. There is none, so nothing is going to happen. We are going to launch nothing, build nothing, and do nothing. And don’t tell me we’re going to develop all this game-changing technology. That’s not the way technology happens. Technology is driven by necessity.

NASA needs access to space, as does the rest of America. They need access to space in the year 2010. Because the shuttle is going away. We need access this year, so what is the response? We’re going to think about it for five years, and then make a decision. Which means we’re 15 years to getting access to space. That is not my kind of space program.

A&S: What is the value of putting tourists in space?

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