This morning, the future of the NASA space program will be discussed in an interview with Dr. Tom Jones, NASA astronaut. Later, Dr. Michio Kaku will sit down with Dr. Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society for a chat.
About the featured guests:
Thomas David Jones (born January 22, 1955) is a former United States astronaut. He was selected to the astronaut corps in 1990 and completed four space shuttle flights before retiring in 2001. He flew on STS-59 and STS-68 in 1994, STS-80 in 1996 and STS-98 in 2001. His total mission time was 53 days 48 minutes. He works as a planetary scientist, space operations consultant, astronaut speaker, and author.
A Distinguished Graduate of the USAF Academy, Dr. Jones served on active duty as an Air Force officer for 6 years. After pilot training in Oklahoma, he flew strategic bombers at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. As pilot and aircraft commander of a B-52D Stratofortress, he led a combat crew of six, accumulating over 2,000 hours of jet experience before resigning as a captain in 1983.
From 1983 to 1988 he worked toward a Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in Tucson. His research interests included the remote sensing of asteroids, meteorite spectroscopy, and applications of space resources. From 1989 to 1990, he was a program management engineer in Washington, D.C., at the CIA‘s Office of Development and Engineering. In 1990 he joined Science Applications International Corporation in Washington, D.C. as a senior scientist. Dr. Jones performed advanced program planning for NASA’s Solar System Exploration Division, investigating future robotic missions to Mars, asteroids, and the outer solar system.
After a year of training following his selection by NASA in January 1990, Dr. Jones became an astronaut in July 1991. In 1994 he flew as a mission specialist on successive flights of space shuttle Endeavour. First, in April 1994, he ran science operations on the “night shift” during STS-59, the first flight of the Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-1). Then, in October 1994, he was the payload commander on the SRL-2 mission, STS-68. Dr. Jones next flew in late 1996 on Columbia. Mission STS-80 successfully deployed and retrieved 2 science satellites, ORFEUS/SPAS and the Wake Shield Facility. While helping set a Shuttle endurance record of nearly 18 days in orbit, Dr. Jones used Columbia’s robot arm to release the Wake Shield satellite and later grapple it from orbit. His latest space flight was aboard Atlantis on STS-98, in February 2001. Dr. Jones and his crew delivered the U.S. Destiny Laboratory Module to the Space Station, and he helped install the Lab in a series of 3 space walks lasting over 19 hours. The successful addition of Destiny gave the first Expedition Crew the largest space outpost in history and marked the start of onboard scientific research at the ISS. A veteran of four space flights, Dr. Jones has logged over 52 days (1,272 hours) in space, including 3 space walks totaling over 19 hours.
Since leaving NASA in 2001, Jones has worked as a planetary scientist and consultant in space operations. He is a senior research scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, engaged in planning robotic and astronaut expeditions to deep space and the near-Earth asteroids. He is also an author and speaker, with four adult, non-fiction works to his credit. From 2006-2009 he served on the NASA Advisory Council. He is a board member of the Association of Space Explorers and the Astronauts Memorial Foundation.
Jones became an advisor at Planetary Resources, Inc. in 2012. He appears frequently as a science/space commentator on radio and television.
Robert Zubrin (born April 5, 1952) is an American aerospace engineer and author, best known for his advocacy of the manned exploration of Mars. He was the driving force behind Mars Direct—a proposal intended to produce significant reductions in the cost and complexity of such a mission. The key idea was to use the Martian atmosphere to produce oxygen, water, and rocket propellant for the surface stay and return journey. A modified version of the plan was subsequently adopted by NASA as their “design reference mission”. He questions the delay and cost-to-benefit ratio of first establishing a base or outpost on an asteroid or another Apollo Program-like return to the Moon, as neither would be able to provide all of its own oxygen, water, or energy; these resources are producible on Mars, and he expects people would be there thereafter.
Disappointed with the lack of interest from government in Mars exploration and after the success of his book The Case for Mars as well as leadership experience at the National Space Society, Zubrin established the Mars Society in 1998. This is an international organization advocating a manned Mars mission as a goal, by private funding if possible.