Journal Record Staff Reporter Traveling into outer space is a
mind-expanding experience, one which contributes to mankind upon
return, astronaut Frederick D. Gregory said Thursday.
It's this experience and later contribution which leads Gregory
to believe that space exploration must be continued, not only for
the exploration, but for research and development, as well as
education, he said.
"Every time I go someplace I've never been before, I learn
something," Gregory told his audience at the National Congress of
Aviation and Space Education in the Myriad.
"It's amazing what you can learn when you let yourself. Then,
when you've learned something and return, you can contribute to
society and it's that contribution which makes it all worthwhile."
Gregory was one of six general assembly speakers during the first
day of the congress which ends Saturday. Other speakers included
Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the
sound barrier; Clyde M DeHart Jr., southwest regional administrator
for the Federal Aviation Administration; H.C. McClure, director of
the FAA's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City; Hans
Brisch, chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher
Education; and California educator Dr. Harry K. Wong.
Besides this educational benefit, there is a direct benefit to
business from space efforts, said Gregory, who has been an
astronaut since January 1978 and has made three flights into space.
"Of course, the benefit and what you end up with may not be
what you initially had in mind," he said. "There have been 30,000
spin-offs (into commercial products) from the space program, but
I'd be willing to bet that not one of those was intentional.
"What you get is when you start doing research in space, you
might learn that in microgravity that water and oil will mix quite
freely. There may be no application for this on Earth, but the
particular device you used to make that mix might have a particular
application, or perhaps some of the materials you used in space
might become commercially feasible on Earth. You never know until
you research these things and find out.
"When you get into space you begin to see things in a different
light and see their operations differently. You might find that
what someone thought was right on Earth, you find out that in space
they not only were very, very wrong, but probably didn't have any
idea what they were talking about." This approach to studying and
researching in different environments should become the major
thrust of the shuttle program, rather than using the vehicle as
simply a device to put satellites in orbit, Gregory said.
"I foresee that we'll have not a fleet of shuttles and a fleet
of expendables (rockets), but rather a mixed fleet which will carry
different missions for each type of vehicle," he said. "I see the
shuttle as basically a research and development platform. …