Space pioneer, retired rocket scientist on NASA's future

By Trang Do - Bio | Email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - NASA Administrator Charles Bolden testified before Congress this past week on the space agency's controversial 2011 budget, one that would effectively kill the Constellation program.

Saturday, WAFF 48 News caught up with two stars of the space world to get their thoughts on aspects of the budget.

One is space pioneer Anousheh Ansari and the other is retired NASA rocket scientist and noted author Homer Hickam.

The two were in the Rocket City to promote "My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer," Ansari's memoir that she co-wrote with Hickam.

They said there are some good things about the proposed budget and some bad.

Iranian-American Ansari is the world's first female space tourist.

In September 2006, she fulfilled a girlhood dream, paying $20 million for a ticket on a Russian spacecraft headed to the International Space Station.

"You look at pictures and you think it will do it justice," Ansari said. "But, I can assure you once you've seen it with your own eyes, it's definitely, a different type of experience."

She said NASA's proposal to pump $6 billion into commercial rockets over five years will hopefully give others the chance to follow in her footsteps.

"The only way to make anything affordable is to have competition," Ansari said. "And by getting the commercial space program going, I think we will have the competition, and finally the promise of people actually being able to go into space will come true."

Hickam collaborated with Ansari on her memoir of going into space.

He said he's been a longtime supporter of commercial space flight, but sees other troubling issues with the proposed budget.

"I think NASA needs a very clear goal, and right now it doesn't," Hickam said. "Constellation, that program was simply canceled without any idea of what to do next."

It's a criticism that many had after hearing Bolden's testimony before Congress.

Hickam said he'd like to see NASA team up with its international partners to build a moon base.

"Let's all get together and let's go to the moon," Hickam said. "And this time let's stay up there and let's build this laboratory, this scientific area that the whole world can come to learn how to live in space and ultimately, live in space."

Hickam said he believes that goal of returning to the moon can be achieved in 15 years.

To learn more about Anousheh Ansari and her memoir, visit:

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