Astronaut David Wolf on NASA, research and Purdue

Nov 26, 2012

It’s been nearly a year and a half since NASA ended the Space Shuttle program. The craft was the most visible symbol of the administration for those not old enough to remember the moon landings. Now, officials are trying to capture the attention of young explorers and scientists in other ways.

Astronaut and Purdue alumnus Dr. David Wolf says one example is highlighting the research conducted on the International Space Station.

Dr. David Wolf, NASA astronaut and Purdue alumnus.
Credit NASA

“It’s different from the singular, spectacular event of a launch or stepping on the moon, which are all great accomplishments. It is our challenge to get our students and young people to pay attention to the longer-range, less immediate gratification type results, because those end up being very important.”

Wolf says even the moon landings took years of research and failures before they were possible. He thinks that process of research and development is critical and must be conveyed to the next generation as important to success.

Still, Wolf says just the lure of space exploration will keep young Americans interested in NASA. That, along with the administration’s historic accomplishments and future possibilities, will capture students’ attention.

“The zero gravity, spaceflight attraction never goes away. Even on the ground to an astronaut in space. My last time looking back on my 168th day in space was just as exciting as my first look at the Earth from space.”

Wolf says he was inspired by Neil Armstrong, and thinks the late astronaut’s accomplishments also will lure future scientists and astronauts to NASA.

“In some sense, [all astronauts] do carry his inspiration, the achievements of his life, forward. He did display all the qualities, not just of astronauts, but of successful people.”

Wolf says the rover missions to Mars and the research on the International Space Station are good examples of current work that continue to gain the attention of Americans, young and old.