Interview series with the authors of “Into that Silent Sea,” French and Burgess, Part twelve

Today in Space History (TISH) has been granted an exclusive opportunity to interview authors Francis French and Colin Burgess based on their book “Into That Silent Sea,” which TISH highly recommends for reading. This is part twelve.

Archives for the complete interview series | one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | Nine | Ten | Eleven | Twelve | Thirteen

The next person to walk on the Moon might be a junior in high school right now. How will the spacefarer of 2020 differ from the spacefarer of 1965?

FF: It’s a natural progression of any career field, especially one that begins with some kind of cutting-edge activity, that the pioneers are quite different to those who follow. The first people in any career are doing the unknown, and their selection is based on anticipation of need rather than full knowledge. Having said that, we still see people entering the astronaut profession with many of the same backgrounds – military flying, civilian engineering and science backgrounds – that we did in the mid-60s. Unless human spaceflight takes a dramatic new turn, that is likely to be the basic need in 2020 too.

I hope that your prediction is correct. I recall school groups being told in the 1970s and early 1980s that we’d be going to the moon, to Mars – it always seemed to be a couple of decades away, and yet as the decades pass, the prediction remains the same. I hope that the generation you mention do indeed get their chance.

One thing I found particularly intriguing is that, in recent years, we have seen cosmonauts, NASA astronauts and other international spacefarers selected who were born after the first moonlanding. It’s an interesting concept, that we have people flying in space now born who were after the Space Race, for whom it has always been a reality that people visited the moon.

CB: An interesting question, and I’ll offer an interesting response: the next person to walk on the moon might very well be a woman. Enough difference? NASA has certainly come a long way since the agency first began recruiting astronauts; at first pilot-dominated, then a grudging acceptance by existing pilot-astronauts of civilian and scientist astronauts; followed then by the recruitment of minorities and the emergence of mission and payload specialists, including female candidates and international space explorers. Eventually cosmonauts began to fly on shuttle missions, and simultaneously NASA astronauts underwent training for missions on Soviet spacecraft, with mixed US and Russian crews then occupying both Mir and the ISS. Now of course we also have educator astronauts being manifested on shuttle flights. Time may unfortunately be against any existing astronaut being the next to walk on the moon, although that is still a possibility, but I know I will certainly raise a cheer when the next person sets foot on the moon, whoever it may be. It’s been way too long a time coming!

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~ by tellinghistory on December 21, 2007.

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