Space Exploration Exciting, Progressing
October 7, 2010
Space exploration is advancing on several fronts, including more routine low-earth orbits and a more detailed study of objects in the solar system and deep space, a project manager for a cutting-edge NASA program said at BYU’s College of Physical and Mathematical Science Honored Alumni Lecture.
“The whole notion of exploration is driven by our desire to know what lies beyond our current knowledge,” Ed Gholdston told an audience on Thursday, Oct. 7. “Certainly in space exploration there is a vast amount to learn.”
That desire was fueled in part by early rocket programs that sent Americans first to space and then to the moon, said Gholdston, who has been involved with NASA programs for over 25 years while working for Rockwell International, Boeing, and, most recently, United Technologies.
“We learned a great deal, and there was a great deal of pride and a sense of looking to the future,” he said.
Those early programs were eventually replaced by the Space Shuttle, which is now on the verge of retirement. “It’s been a workhorse for several decades,” Gholdston said. “It’s served us well.”
The Space Shuttle was particularly useful in building the International Space Station (ISS), a floating laboratory where astronauts conduct experiments on everything from human physiology to crystals to biotechnology, said Gholdston, who spent about 20 years on the project.
He is now part of the next big advancement in space exploration, “Orion”—a future NASA crew exploration vehicle Gholdston said could take man to the moon, asteroids and eventually other planets.
“We are looking for this to be a deep space vehicle,” he said. “We are intending to go to deep space.”
But while deep space travel is still in the future for humans, robots and probes are there right now, photographing planets at close range and examining the surface of celestial bodies like Mars and Titan for signs of life, Gholdston said.
And as for exploration beyond the solar system, he said, the Hubble Space Telescope is examining distant galaxies and corners of the universe that would take millions of light years to reach and bringing the images to Earth.
“There’s a staggering amount out there to explore and discover,” Gholdston said. “In terms of space exploration, we have really just begun, but in so doing, we have taken our first steps to the stars.”
—Justin Ritter, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences