Oct 07, 2011 - Claremont, Calif. - Astronaut Bruce McCandless’ Oct. 4 visit to Harvey Mudd College brought honor to a scholarship recipient and exciting information to an attentive audience of faculty, staff, students and visitors.
Capt. Bruce McCandless
McCandless with Paul Riggins '12
McCandless opened with a video sharing the story of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which was founded in 1984 by the six surviving members of America’s Mercury Seven astronauts. He then presented a symbolic over-sized check to Paul Riggins ’12, representing the $10,000 scholarship the physics major received from the foundation.
Riggins was one of only 26 students nationwide to receive the prestigious award this year.
Following the scholarship presentation, the evening shifted to a historic look at NASA’s space shuttle program, a review of lessons learned and a glance at the potential future of space exploration.
Despite the shuttle program’s two devastating accidents, which claimed the lives of 14 people, McCandless shared how it taught valuable lessons about what was possible in space. Among those lessons was the knowledge that almost anyone could travel safely to outerspace and that humankind could build and repair things while there.
He also shared regrets from the shuttle era, including the failure to develop an automatic landing system or the capability to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Turning toward the future, McCandless shared how a paradigm shift regarding risk management was key for advancing space exploration. “The real challenge is to take a task which has a perception of high risk and engineer and analyze it until you overcome and manage those risks and then go forward and conquer it,” he said.
He then highlighted pending and future projects including the James Webb Space Telescope, which can image data farther out in the infrared band. Its planned position of a million miles out from Earth, however, may make it difficult to service should a problem arise, McCandless said.
He also touched on the current shift toward commercial low-earth orbit (LEO) vehicles, China’s development of the space station, “Heavenly Palace-1,” efforts to address near-earth asteroids, and NASA’s new Space Launch System.
“I do believe we are in a time of great change. We need new and aggressive engineers and scientists to develop new concepts and push them,” McCandless said. “It’s a new day. The opportunities are different, but they are there.”
Astronaut Bruce McCandless’ Oct. 4 visit to Harvey Mudd College brought honor to a scholarship recipient and exciting information to an attentive audience of faculty, staff, students and visitors.
Capt. Bruce McCandless
Media Contact: Judy Augsburger