Retired NASA Astronaut John Grunsfeld bumps in to E.J Becker

Kansas City's Morning News
Friday, November 10th

You never know who you'll bump into at the airport. Nasa Astronaut John Grunsfeld was just passing through Kansas City and getting some gas downtown. He talked with me about the Hubble telescope, blast off and his role after the Columbia tragedy. - E.J.


Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Kansas city's morning news and you never know we're gonna bump into at the airport earlier this week. John Rumsfeld was taking a cross country flight from Maryland to Colorado in when he needed gas for is airplane he stopped the downtown airport. And there is where I bumped into him and struck up a conversation about his life and career. Including what it's like to go from NASA astrophysicist. To NASA astronaut. I was a professional scientists and astrophysicist. In 1990 drugs selected as an astronaut puts us. Just incredible because. It's a six year old right at the childhood dream of eventually becoming an astronaut but I never truly thought it was realistic. I just didn't you know know. Nobody comes Nestor. Number I applied it and I was accepted. In 1995 a fly on the space shuttle for seventeen days doing astronomy. What is that like. When they count down they hit zero you've been shaken now for how many seconds because the the main engines are going in your weight on the boosters. Tell me about that though those last two or three seconds and then we can when you finally feel yourself ago. The stark reality is that a space shuttle auction and church troop throw Russia launches is a very violent event. You know this is not something where you gently lift off here even island in the field Apollo rockets did. Lift off more slowly but does big solid rocket motors on the shuttle as it left off the pedestal can train wreck and so there's sort of an instant where you know you're. They're blowing up for your launch in and it's sort of a simultaneous thing in fact you know yours and I'm. Four million pounds of explosive fuel it is an explosion just a controlled one. And it's a very rough ride. You know it's it's pretty violent it done on my second flight it was enough that my eyeballs were shaking in my head that I couldn't read the displays prepared a few seconds. And and and things settle down once you get rid of a solid rocket mothers against pretty smooth. That's tough for Jews electric drive. Of Yugoslavia mr. time. And then engines cutoff date and half minutes and it's absolute magic. Missiles floating your floating. Atmosphere or seniors 171500. Miles an hour. I'm just truly magical and it's got to be one of those moments in your life the first time you feel that words just to you something you can imagine actually strangely for me. I had this enormous sense of peace. It was at that point 5% survive launch you never know. Suddenly felt well I feel at home now. For the first time in my life like this this this is horrible. So what's it like when you see. The worst. Happened to your colleagues. It's unbelievably terrible for Columbia. Mission control center was. In making calls to Columbia. Nor about the normal time. We would reestablish contact with them after the radio blackouts from their fiery reentry. And I was with my wife we're watching her kitchen table. And shed any and every mistake but I turned her I said I think we just lost Columbia. I went into the bedroom packed a bag and headed into. Mission control which as you know sort of program response personally in my wife and two little kids I think proposed terrible. But. I spent in the next couple months recovering bits of Columbia in east Texas and it was just awful. If you recognize the name John grounds felled maybe you've heard it on TV lately. Turns out he was just on TV because he's the go to guy for the Hubble space telescope. I store for NASA and the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and I'm trying to answer that question are we alone in the universe coach. I think everybody wants to know but now we can actually build a telescope. That could answer that question because there planet thrown virtually every star in the night sky I was watching some. They would talk to the public to sixty minutes piece I was I'm at peace we're talking about. The longevity of the Hubble there how remarkable it is that it's made so many scientific discoveries. And not only that. For the first time in human history. It's given us a view of the universe with the kind of you know brilliant resolution we have. Looking girl her own arrivals from your perspective if we think we are alone of our kind or of intelligent life in this universe we're just being night. You know my human side tells me that my scientific. You know analysis side says. But we have no proof what's future of space program because you see. Eat quite a bit of competition but it's all private NASA's edit but not in it bothers there's a perception of competition and there's real competition there. But if you look a little more closely you'll find out. And reminding knocking them back and aerospace vehicle leaves the ground beat him. One of those companies to get a lot of attention to SpaceX. But SpaceX is funded by the federal government your tax dollars are you funding them to do that work for NASA Boeing is building and capitalist wealth effect. They're really interest in what is Jeff these shows the owner of blue origin. He's finding that on his own and I think that's great I think were we will see at least for the lower or business side of space. A lot of new human space flight coming up in the near future course restore of the International Space Station which is orbit in a way. You know my view is that we need to go somewhere. I think we should send humans to Mars. Vice president had said let's go to the moon. It really doesn't matter. Other than personal desires but we should pick one and actually go there. Elon Musk has said Mars Mars Mars Mars and you think in the next couple of decades is that reasonable I was totally reasonable we have the resources. NASA's. Not thundered as well as I'd like but it's hundred adequately. Tell us that we could build a mission to Mars today. Why don't woody. We need the leadership. Talking with NASA astronaut John grunts felt too I bumped into on the tarmac at the downtown airport as he was filling up his airplane. On a cross country flight. Rumsfeld is known as the Hubble repairman he did eight space walks to work on and repair the telescope and asked him what it was like to walk in space. Those of us on the ground look at this we think ourselves. You like. One thing in little threat away from go away from traverse forever and floating away what's the reality. But that is the reality here and I'm so much floated away. It's a pretty crazy things do but it's an awesome things him. You're getting into it clocks suit in a multi multiple layers of nine on an Accra and rubberized interior but your clock suit going outside of Acxiom. Witches you know certain death. Plastic helmet. You know it's a crazy thing that we do. But it's the ultimate you're your own space ship after means the ultimate so humanity space experience it it shows what what people can do. You know we can do on earth and we can do and spaces for a practical purposes. And and I think that bodes well for the future humanity how much do you miss a call all the time if I can live in space they would like go to Mars that would. Retired astronaut John grunts felt talking to me earlier this week during a stop off. At the downtown airport.