Astronauts Share Experiences with ISU Participants
International Space University (ISU) participants Tejal Thakore from India, Christian Luthen from Germany, Kazuyuki Okada from Japan, and many others from around the world heard about the future of human spaceflight during an astronaut panel discussion July 11 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
The panel of current and former U.S. and international astronauts discussed what it was like to fly on the space shuttle, live on the International Space Station, and their hopes for commercial spaceflight and NASA's exploration into deep space.
"It's been a great experience," Okada said. "I like the diversity of the students and I feel very fortunate that I've had the chance to meet people from so many different countries."
Luthen, a medical doctor, said he's always had a general interest in space and would like to work more in human space life sciences.
Thakore, an aerospace engineer, will leave after ISU to work as a Galileo spacecraft controller in Munich, Germany.
"This has been a fantastic and exceptional experience," Thakore said.
Gary Martin, from NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California, is director of the ISU Space Studies Program. He said this year's 134 participants are from 31 different countries, with the majority from China, Canada and the U.S.
"All ISU programs are taught at the graduate level and are dedicated to promoting international, interdisciplinary and intercultural cooperation in space activities," Martin said. "The programs are taught by more than 100 full- and part-time faculty and invited industry experts from throughout the world."
Participating in the panel discussion were Kennedy Director and former astronaut Bob Cabana, who also served as moderator. Panelists were Ken Bowersox, former NASA astronaut; Chiaki Mukai, first female astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; Garrett Reisman, senior engineer with SpaceX and former NASA astronaut; Kent Rominger, vice president, advanced programs and launch systems with Alliant Techsystems and former NASA astronaut; Winston Scott, dean of the College of Aeronautics at Florida Institute of Technology and former NASA astronaut; Nicole Stott, NASA astronaut on assignment working on the agency's Commercial Crew Program at Kennedy; and Jim Voss, director of advanced programs with Sierra Nevada Corp. and former NASA astronaut.
Cabana opened the discussion by asking the panel what they think it takes to be an astronaut.
Voss said, "I think you have to do the very best you can at everything you do and that should be your goal."
On a question about the commercialization of space tourism, Rominger answered, "I think it's great. More power to them. What people will realize is, as long as the systems that takes them up and bring them back are safe, mechanically, they will learn how to deal with microgravity."
Rominger also said that the goal in the commercial world is to make the transportation as simple as possible so people can enjoy the realization of being in space.
"It's an exciting time," Reisman said. "We are in the age of opening up new possibilities. We have to be able to fly people with less training and experience. That's where we're headed in the future."
Bowersox said, "The more people we put into space, the more viewpoints we get, and the more likely it is we're going to find those really key aspects of those advantages of living and working in microgravity so that we can take full benefit of it."
A question about what traits would be needed to go beyond Earth brought several responses.
"When we explore beyond planet Earth, we have to be able to deal with contingencies and we have to have crews that are willing to not have everything perfect and in a pristine environment," Cabana said.
"For exploration on deep space missions, you want people with expeditionary skills and the ability to figure things out for the best chance of success on very dangerous missions," Rominger said. "It will be a team effort and no single person is going to have all the skills."
Cabana closed the discussion by telling the participants what they're doing at ISU is developing relationships and that's something they'll carry with them forever.
"The space program has some awfully unique hardware, but it's not the hardware, it's the people," Cabana said. "I truly believe that when we go exploring it will be the people of planet Earth, not any one nation."
Mukai said, "Keep your dream alive and then pursue your dream."
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center