Story Musgrave: straight talk on the current space program.

Story Musgrave is a good friend and colleague. He’s also, hands-down, the smartest, straightest-talker I’ve ever met. We first worked together back when I ran the Discover Magazine Awards at Disney and Story was a (favorite) presenter. Since then, we’ve worked together in various capacities.

Earlier this year, the White House made several (at times contradictory) reports about the future of NASA. I needed clarity so I turned to Story who granted me this interview in late April. He’s a farm boy who went on to fix the Hubble Telescope and I knew he’d cut straight through the BS and deliver the facts framed by his years of experience and knowledge.

Story has 7 graduate degrees in math, computers, chemistry, medicine, physiology, literature and psychology. Story was an NASA astronaut for over 30 years, a portion of which he spent as a part-time trauma surgeon, and flew on six spaceflights. He performed the first shuttle spacewalk on Challenger’s first flight, was a pilot on an astronomy mission, conducted two classified DOD missions, was the lead spacewalker on the Hubble Telescope repair mission and on his last flight, he operated an electronic chip manufacturing satellite on Columbia.

He’s not shy about sharing his informed opinions when invited to do so. So I did so.
I asked him what he thought about President Obama’s space policies:

“We’re going nowhere, we’re going to launch nothing, we’re going to do nothing.
It takes us 15 years to do what we did in 5 years, 50 years ago.”

I pushed him to help explain why the public is no longer enthused about space. His response:

“Space holds a mirror up for what it means to be a human being. The public IS excited about space but we have to give them something. The Space Station was a massive strategic error. For the cost of that […] the entire solar system would have been covered. Instead, we’re giving the public nothing.”

Here’s the full interview, the release of which coincides nicely with Story’s birthday on August 19th. Story’s willing to do a follow-up so let me know if you have additional questions you’d like me to ask him. (Special thanks to Mike Lucek for his technical assistance.)