Committee Holds Live Downlink Event to Hear from Astronauts on the International Space Station


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(Washington, DC) - Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a live communications "downlink" with the two U.S. astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), current ISS Commander Dr. Steve Swanson and Commander (USN) Reid Wiseman.

Watch the archived webcast of the event here.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her opening statement, "This past weekend marked the 45th anniversary of the first humans landing on the Moon.  It was a bold achievement, as was the more recent assembly of the International Space Station.  The success of both of these ventures depended on the dedication and bravery of past and present members of the astronaut corps in spite of the risks they willingly face in the name of science and exploration.  I know that all Members join me in saluting them. While the road to its completion was a long one, the ISS stands as one of the engineering marvels of the modern age, and a testament to American ingenuity and perseverance." 

Members had the opportunity to speak with the astronauts for about twenty minutes.  They covered a number of topics, including those pertinent to policy and those lighter in nature.  The policy related topics dealt with how the ISS deals with orbital debris; what work the astronauts are doing on the ISS that will enable missions to take us beyond low-earth orbit and specifically to Mars; how their work helps the U.S. maintain leadership in science and technology and how it inspires young people to enter STEM fields; and why the U.S. needs to support the ISS. 

Dr. Swanson said, "Again, it goes back to what do we provide for the taxpayer? One, we provide research and development. That's what we get out of this. We get new products, new ideas, new science, and new research which always help the country in the future. And that creates new companies which helps the economy. We also inspire a new generation which hopefully gets them to be productive and help out and make our country stronger. And, we are explorers, which helps the whole human race."

Members also asked the astronauts a number of questions provided by children in their Districts including if anyone has had a birthday in space and how it was celebrated; what they pack in their suitcases; their favorite space foods; if they think we will find life in space; what a student needs to do in order to become an astronaut; and what inspired them to become astronauts.

Commander Wiseman described his inspiration, "I think back to my childhood when the space shuttle was just being developed and launched back in 1981. I was around six years old at the time, and I definitely remember a 747 flying over Maryland when I was in Towson with my parents. We had gone up to the top of a hill for the simple act of watching a space shuttle fly over on the back of a 747 as they were transporting it and that image is burned into my mind, and that probably started the course that I was on to become not only a Navy pilot, a test pilot, and then an astronaut. So, to me, we never know, that little thing that's going to spark the imagination of a child's mind and for me it was a simple airplane with a space shuttle flying--or, wait, that's not simple--but it was that simple act of being with my parents, and that was what sparked my imagination. So, as much as we can from up here and at NASA on the ground, we reach out to kids and just expose them to this world, this STEM world that's in motion. I think you never know when you're going to spark their imagination and I'm sure that we're doing it every day."

Ms. Johnson also expressed her hope that the Committee will hold a formal hearing in order to further examine the International Space Station, its utilization in support of exploration and basic and applied research, and the plan to extend the life of the ISS until 2024.

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