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Actually, It Is Rocket Science

A visit with Craig Kluever, Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: mission design research space travel NASA spacecraft

Should we send more people to the moon?

Topics: NASA robotic missions

Asked why this research was important, Kluever responded in a surprising way. In an era of tight budgets, most researchers are accustomed to arguing for the importance of their work. However, Kluever answers ambivalently: “That’s the hardest question.” He could cite the many technological advances that were outcomes of the space program (from Teflon and computers to mammograms), advances that impact many lives. But that kind of response has become something of a cliché, he believes. Presently, roughly 75% of NASA’s budget is tied up in the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, with only the remainder left to fund basic science, biological, earth science, and robotic missions (to Jupiter, Pluto, and Mercury). Whether there’s a direct benefit to human spaceflight, Kluever admits, “I myself struggle with that question. In this day of tight budgets, I’m not sure if that money is justified to send a person to the moon.”