The Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center

Pete Worden talks about piloting a Stearman and settling the moon.

Worden takes the controls of a PT-17 "Kaydet" Stearman biplane during the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom 2006 tour. (NASA)
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A&S: When did you get your pilot’s license?
When I was 17. My dad was a corporate pilot and an Air Guard pilot and we had a little light airplane that he trained me in. Most people say they’re really scared when they fly solo. Well, my dad used World War II training techniques, which meant the moment I got in the airplane his mouth opened, and it didn’t close until the engine cut off. You know, non-stop yelling and colorful language. I was so glad when he was out of the airplane. In fact, I even did one or two things wrong [during my solo], and he was on the ground shaking his fist at me.

A&S: Where will we be in space exploration 25 years from now?
I certainly hope that we’re on the moon and Mars, and I might add that near-Earth asteroids are a very exciting additional set of targets. I would think that in 25 years the most important thing we would have is people that are permanently living off the planet. Living and thriving and settling.

A&S: The first space age saw a breakthrough in computer technology. What breakthroughs do you foresee for the next era in space exploration?
I think it’s probably the ability to live off the land. In some sense, a human settlement is a self-replicating entity. And I think that the technology to do that is a combination of manufacturing, biological, energy, and other things. So it’s sort of a synthesis of dozens of different technologies that actually enable you to not only live but expand. You might call it the development of an Earth seed, a planet on another planet that can survive by itself and produce more. The first space age was getting there. The next space age is living there.

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