Chiao: Don't Let Them Hijack Our Dreams
A view of Space Shuttle Columbia's payload bay during the STS-65 Spacelab microgravity experiment in 1994 -- NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao was Mission Specialist during the two-week mission.
Image: A view of the shuttle's payload bay wi
July 15, 2011 --
The final space shuttle mission (STS-135) to the International Space Station (ISS) continues. Supplies have been delivered by shuttle Atlantis and the final "shuttle era" spacewalk has been successfully completed. Here are a selection of photographs from the busy ISS since Atlantis docked with the orbital outpost on July 10.
While Atlantis was docked to the space station, a member of the STS-135 crew snapped this picture of some of the islands in the Bahamas, off the coast of the Florida peninsula (right). Miami can be seen toward the top right of the photograph. Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center are located out of shot in the bottom right of the photo.
Welcomed... Fruit? Shortly after docking with the space station, the Atlantis crew (including STS-135 pilot Doug Hurley, left) gave the resident space station crew supplies of fresh food. With a smile, Expedition 28 flight engineer Mike Fossum (right) receives a bag of fruit.
While aboard the space station, the STS-135 crew are working on many tasks during their short stay. STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson (right) can be seen here working with Japanese astronaut and Expedition 28 flight engineer Satoshi Furukawa in the Quest airlock inspecting space suits assigned to NASA astronauts Mike Fossum and Ron Garan prior to the July 12 spacewalk.
Say "Cheese"! During the six and a half hour spacewalk to retrieve a failed ammonia pump module from an external storage platform and install a robotic refueling demonstration apparatus, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum takes a picture while Atlantis is docked behind him. Fossum can be seen restrained on the end of the space station remote manipulator system (Canadarm2).
Mike Fossum points at the camera as he waits at an International Space Station pressurized mating adapter (PMA-2) docked to the space shuttle Atlantis, as the station's robotic system moves the failed ammonia pump module (out of frame) over to the spacewalking astronaut and the shuttle's cargo bay.
Robotic Assistance Mike Fossum, while attached to Canadarm2, holds the Robotics Refueling Mission payload -- one of the main tasks to be carried out during the spacewalk. The failed pump module can be seen with the two-armed robot, Dextre, on left side of the photo.
Shuttle Stowage With his feet secured to Canadarm2, NASA astronaut Ron Garan carries the failed ammonia pump module toward shuttle Atlantis' open payload bay. When Atlantis returns to Earth on July 21, engineers will study the module to see how it failed and how the problem can be avoided in the future.
In addition to installing/removing space station hardware, STS-135 delivered up to a years-worth of supplies. STS-135 mission specialist Sandy Magnus can be seen here floating inside the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module that Atlantis carried to the space station. Magnus is surrounded by the supplies for consumption of the space station residents for the months ahead.
A Picnic, Shuttle Style Seven astronauts -- six from NASA and one from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) -- and three Russian cosmonauts participate in a special meal on the Space Shuttle Atlantis' middeck on July 14. The STS-135 crew consists of NASA astronauts Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim; the Expedition 28 or station crew members are JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev and Sergei Volkov. All photographs can be found in NASA's Human Spaceflight Gallery.
“Columbia, NTD (NASA Test Director), close and lock your visors, initiate O2 flow, and have a good flight.”
With these words on June 8, 1994, we were being sent off on what was my first mission into space aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-65. Moments later, Columbia's rockets roared to life and the adventure began with a mixture of fire, sound, and raw power. Less than nine minutes later, we were in Low Earth Orbit. What a ride! What a view of the Earth! What an emotional moment, to be realizing my boyhood dream of flying into space!
My friend, colleague and NASA astronaut classmate would later tell me that she watched my launch live. Well part of it anyway. She had just barely arrived in Moscow for a training session, and switched on the hotel television in hopes of catching the launch.
Back in the day, CNN still carried Shuttle launches live, and she was just in time to watch the engines ignite. But, once Columbia cleared the tower, the launch video was moved into a small box in the corner of the screen, and live coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial resumed.
I suppose they kept us in the corner so they could go back live to the Kennedy Space Center with little loss of continuity in case we blew up.
I am a realist, so I didn’t really blame CNN. The public had already become somewhat blasé about the space program. After all, Shuttles were flying six or more times a year, and NASA had, in a way, become a victim of its own success.
People wanted to know all of the details of the trial, down to what shoes O.J. might or might not have owned. I was just glad that CNN still carried the launches live. We contributed to some remarkable science during our two week mission, but almost none of it was reported anywhere, in deference to coverage of the trial.
Why are we so obsessed with negative news, and what impact is this having on other areas?
Now, fast-forward nearly twenty years.
On Monday April 29 2013, Virgin Galactic did something remarkable -- they carried out their first powered flight test of SpaceShipTwo. However, the event barely made a blip on the national and international news. Even Richard Branson’s legendary ability to do public relations and capture media attention was only barely enough to get a tiny amount of publicity on this remarkable step in commercial spaceflight.
No, instead the headlines continued to focus on two brothers, who allegedly carried out the Boston Marathon bombing. I for one am sick of hearing about it. Tell me something when something real is discovered. The pain and suffering these individuals caused was deeply saddening, but I really couldn't care less about what the older brother "tweeted" in the days leading up to the attacks.
How much are we missing out on because our negative news addiction is drowning out all of the good stuff?
On that same Monday, National Public Radio (NPR) reported that funding for the National Institute of Health (NIH) has been cut so much that, while previously one in three proposals would get funded, now only one in ten are expected to receive research money. So much for advancing the state-of-the-art in medical research.
And this is just one area of meaningful public funding that is being cut. Don’t get me started about the U.S. Space Program.
I understand that the world has changed since the terror attacks of 911, and I certainly support the need for funding national security needs. I also understand that news media need to cover what interests the public, for both service and business survival reasons.
However, I have come to realize that terrorists and criminals are not only affecting our security concerns, they are also hijacking our future dreams. Nothing good happens without funding, and if the public and politicians don’t hear about the good things that the funding creates, it ends.
Let’s not let them win. Let’s make a decision to go on with pushing forward in our lives, instead of hunkering down. Let’s go on to advance the state-of-the-art in interesting things that are beneficial to individuals and to society as a whole.
What it’s going to take is a change in attitude. This is something that starts with each one of us. Only through individual realignment, will we be able to affect the national mood, and thus get the attention of our leaders in politics and in the media. This is how we can make meaningful changes in the way that we move forward.
Let’s not let our future dreams be hijacked. We owe our children and grandchildren a better legacy than that.
Leroy Chiao served as a NASA astronaut from 1990-2005. During his 15-year career, he flew four missions into space, three times on space shuttles and once as the copilot of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. On that flight, he served as the commander of Expedition 10, a six-and-a-half-month mission. Dr. Chiao has performed six spacewalks, in both U.S. and Russian spacesuits, and has logged nearly 230 days in space.