Sacramento astronaut Steve Robinson talks space, NASA during shuttle mission

1:23 AM, Feb 12, 2010   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - One of astronaut Steve Robinson's greatest thrills in space came during a spacewalk in 2005. 

Robinson looked up as the space shuttle Discovery passed over the coast of California -- and sure enough, there was his hometown of Sacramento. 

"I could see where I was born," Robinson said. "It was a very striking and emotional moment."

Robinson was back in space this week on this fourth and final mission aboard the space shuttle. 

Robinson and the crew of the shuttle Endeavour were docked at the International Space Station Thursday. The veteran spacewalker will be directing two other astronauts as they venture out to install the last two major additions to the space station -- a new room called "Tranquility," and the largest window ever put in space called a "cupola."

Robinson, along with the crew of Endeavour and the ISS, talked to News10 via satellite from the space station Wednesday. 

Robinson said looking down at Earth from space is life-changing. 

"It really does broaden your view of humans' place in the universe," said Robinson. "You feel more like a citizen of the planet. I think the more people that get to experience that, the better this world is going to be."

While the astronauts work in space this week, the future of NASA is somewhat uncertain.  Last week, President Barack Obama's budget to Congress scrapped plans for NASA to return to the moon by the end of this decade. 

NASA's new mission will be to support private space companies as they design and build the next generation of spacecraft.  NASA will retire the remaining three space shuttles before the end of this year. 

It is very likely that the next time astronauts are launched to the space station from American soil, they will be flying on a rocket built by a private company.

Despite the uncertainty at NASA, Robinson remains optimistic about the future of space exploration. 

"I think the American public have counted on a human space program for more than 50 years now," said Robinson. "It's part of the national identity, so I think it's going to continue. To me, it's not a matter of exactly which year we go back to the moon and establish a moon base. I think it's going to happen. I can't say when. I can't say who's going to be primarily responsible.  But I presume it will be an international effort because it's one planet reaching the moon. I just don't see any way the exploration of space would really slow down because that's the human spirit."


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