This is a guest post by Darlene Cavalier, a writer and senior adviser at Discover Magazine. Darlene holds a Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader. She founded ScienceCheerleader.com and cofounded ScienceForCitizens.net to make it possible for lay people to contribute to science.
“We’re going nowhere, doing nothing.”
– NASA astronaut Story Musgrave (pictured below repairing the Hubble).
Today is Story Musgrave‘s birthday. As a young boy, he repaired farm equipment; a fundamental experience he carried with him when he later fixed the Hubble Telescope. Story is a good friend and colleague. He’s also, hands-down, the smartest, straightest-talker I’ve ever met. We first worked together back when I ran the Discover Magazine Awards at Disney and Story was a (favorite) presenter. Since then, we’ve worked together in various capacities.
Earlier this year, the White House made several (at times contradictory) reports about the future of NASA. I needed clarity so I turned to Story who granted me this interview in late April. I knew he’d cut straight through the BS and deliver the facts framed by his years of experience and knowledge.
Story has 7 graduate degrees in math, computers, chemistry, medicine, physiology, literature and psychology. Story was an NASA astronaut for over 30 years, a portion of which he spent as a part-time trauma surgeon, and flew on six spaceflights. He performed the first shuttle spacewalk on Challenger’s first flight, was a pilot on an astronomy mission, conducted two classified DOD missions, was the lead spacewalker on the Hubble Telescope repair mission and on his last flight, he operated an electronic chip manufacturing satellite on Columbia.
He’s not shy about sharing his informed opinions when invited to do so. So I did, in this recorded interview.
I asked him what he thought about President Obama’s space policies:
“We’re going nowhere, we’re going to launch nothing, we’re going to do nothing. It takes us 15 years to do what we did in 5 years, 50 years ago.”
I pushed him to help explain why the public is no longer enthused about space. His response:
“Space holds a mirror up for what it means to be a human being. The public IS excited about space but we have to give them something. The Space Station was a massive strategic error. For the cost of that [...] the entire solar system would have been covered. Instead, we’re giving the public nothing.”
Here’s the full interview. Story’s willing to do a follow-up so leave a comment if you have additional questions you’d like me to ask him. (Special thanks to Mike Lucek for his technical assistance.)