Inspiring youngsters to study the disciplines needed for spaceflight and exploration is critical for the survival of the human race, according to NASA astronaut Al Worden.
Col Worden was the Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 15 lunar mission in 1971. He is one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon, which he orbited 74 times in the Command Module Endeavour.
The astronaut and engineer launched the Al Worden Endeavour Scholarship Programme at the Dubai Airshow 2019, where it was presented to an Emirati student.
Space 'critical' to survival of human species
Col Worden explained why it was critical to inspire the younger generation to be inspired by and develop the methods and craft to take human beings deeper into space: “We need to sustain the kind of people that are going to design, develop and fly spacecraft in the future. That’s the science, technology and maths side of academics.”
“I think it is critical that we have that nucleus of young people coming along who are going to be in charge of the space programme in the future. The space programme has to be maintained in the future - it’s actually the survival of the human species.”
He added: “It’s critically important that we work with these young people we motivate them, not only in the excitement of space, but in doing that we also motivate them in the science technology, engineering and maths curriculum in school. We need to reach young people before they get to college because, by then, they have already made up their minds what they want to do.”
The greatest technological undertaking that any country has ever done
2019 marked 50 years since the moon landings. Col Worden described Apollo 11 as the “high point” of man’s space flight, likening the programme to the building of Egypt’s pyramids and “the greatest technological undertaking that any country has ever done.”
From his time as an astronaut, space exploration then took place via the shuttles with now just the international space station remaining.
“The space station has proven to us that we can, and need to include all countries that are willing to be involved into that programme.”
Col Worden believed that the priorities for the next generation should include exploration beyond our solar system and solving the problem of finding a suitable inhabitable planet for the day when the Sun goes out. “It’s zillions of miles to get to the next planet - and that’s going to be a big problem.”
As well as finding new planets, Col Worden said he was interested in learning more about the commercial possibilities from exploration of Earth’s orbit.