Space Exploration Needed for Research, Education
May, Bill, THE JOURNAL RECORD
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 retired U.S.
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. …