From left to right: Arnold Aldrich, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, Space Shuttle Program Management; Michael Collins, Gemini 10, Apollo 11; Walt Cunningham, Apollo 7; Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17; Al Worden, Apollo 15.
Credit: The Ohio State University/Kevin Fitzsimons

 

Earlier this month, former Apollo astronauts, current and former NASA administrators, space managers and engineers, and an expert on space law were among the panelists on the Ohio State University (OSU) campus for the Armstrong Space Symposium.

The May 8 event preceded the formal installation of aerospace innovator John M. Horack as the university’s first Neil Armstrong Chair in Aerospace Policy.

Moon or Mars?

Discussion centered on whether humans should venture next to the Moon or Mars, how to get there, and who will get there first.

Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden advised: “I think there may be a confluence of events in the world today that will predicate another landing on the Moon, but it won’t be [by the United States]…I think it might be China.”

Apollo astronaut, Al Worden.
Credit: The Ohio State University/Kevin Fitzsimons

Countering that view is Apollo 17’s Jack Schmitt, but added that he did agree that China has big ambitions in space. “They understand what we taught them with Apollo,” he said. “Dominating space is a critical step toward dominating the geopolitical culture of the Earth.”

Retiring looks

Worden said that he favors Mars as the next target for exploration, but suggested that being an 85-year-old retiree gives him the ideal mix of patience and fortitude for the tedious months-long journey.

“I can sit all day and watch TV and not get bored,” Worden suggested. “Send an old man!”

Apollo 11’s Michael Collins.
Credit: The Ohio State University/Kevin Fitzsimons

 

Apollo 7’s Walt Cunningham explained why he and his fellow astronauts felt they were up to the task back then, despite their young age: “We were all fighter pilots and test pilots, and we knew what we could do.”

Looking at today’s commercial space ventures such as SpaceX, Apollo 11’s Michael Collins said that they don’t have the imprimatur of the U.S. government, but they are more agile. Still, he added: “I don’t think [Elon] Musk understands the enormity of a Martian mission. It makes Apollo look like child’s play.”

Resources

To catch up with the Armstrong Space Symposium and Chair Installation, go to these informative videos:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgv9uq_bmKelH9ZwuYaUqEeoLxd0bzcKr

Also, an overview of the event is available by Pam Frost Gorder of University Communications at The OSU. Go to:

https://engineering.osu.edu/news/2017/05/armstrong-space-symposium-astronauts-discuss-future-humans-space

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