Since the dawn of time, man has stretched the boundaries of his world - from a few miles in caveman days, to sending space probes millions of light years away. But humans have not ventured from Earth orbit since the last Apollo moon shot in 1972. Now NASA, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, is trying to change that.
The most recent publicity for NASA hasn't’t been very flattering: an astronaut arrested for attacking her rival in a love triangle. So the agency is eager for some good news to get Americans excited about the space program again.
That’s why they invited members of several media outlets to Space Camp, where students learn how to shoot for the stars no matter what career they choose.
We’re about a-month-and-a-half away from the launch of space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station. Americans used to be glued to their TV’s to share these adventures. Now they hardly notice.
“We make some things that are so incredibly hard look easy, that sometimes we’re our own worst enemy,” said Charles B. Chitwood, Ph.D., of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
So NASA invited us to a media version of Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. We did the usual Space Camp stuff: got our guts all twisted up in the multi-axis trainer, got our faces flattened by 3.1 G’s in the centrifuge, even took a simulated shuttle flight, all to get you excited about space travel again.
So then, why go back to the moon?
“Apollo in the 60's was somewhat of a precocious move by a young nation. We took camping trips to the moon in the 60's. Now we’re looking on how we can establish a place where people can look up and say there are people that live there. Humanity lives there. Humanity is advancing beyond the surface of the Earth,” Dr. Chitwood said.
“We have taken over this planet. The next logical step is to advance into the solar system. Human kind’s always gone on to the next frontier. This is the next frontier. It’s pretty dramatic what kind of conclusions we can take from a little bit of data. I can’t tell you I know exactly what that means, but it means that a simpler view of how our solar system came together is gonna be replaced with a more complex, likely more interconnected one.”
But the moon is just a warm-up for the big move.
“It’s no more ambitious at the dawn of the 21st century to imagine going to Mars, than it was 50 years ago to go to the moon. It is what we do. It’s part of what we are as a country,” Dr. Chitwood said.
And that may be the best argument for getting the country behind the space program again.
Says Dr. Chitwood, “Americans can do anything they put their minds to. We want to be a part of the debate of what is the next great thing for America.”
And that’s what NASA wants to be: the next great thing America gets excited about.
Back in the 60's and 70's, national pride in the Space Race, galvanized this country, everyone pulling together to achieve the same goal. Now NASA has added a Corporate Camp with a team-building course to help Americans shoot for the stars in a different way. We’ll show you that tomorrow night, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007, at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.