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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Columbia tragedy hits GW

Hours after NASA officials announced the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated Saturday, GW’s principal space expert was doing his part in the information gathering effort.

Dr. John Logsdon, director of the space policy at the Elliott School of International Affairs, conducted interviews with dozens of international media outlets this weekend.

Logsdon said he felt a “certain des ja vu” this weekend in what he called his busiest time since Space Shuttle Challenger exploded over Cape Canaveral almost exactly 17 years ago.

“There have been hundreds of phone calls … (I spoke with) basically any main news outlet,” he said, adding that he spoke on German television, Al Jazeera and the BBC among other international media. Among domestic media, Logsdon was quoted in the New York Times and Washington Post as well as conducting interviews with CBS News and CNN’s Larry King Live.

Logsdon, a space historian, serves on numerous international space organizations including the NASA Advisory Council and currently is the director of the GW Space Policy Institute.

“(The Institute) is looking to act as a resource to the media … and all those who want to understand what is going on,” he said. “Our role is to explain what’s happening.”

Logsdon said he feels the tragic accident will spur a national debate on the value of humans in space and stressed the importance of continuing shuttle flight.

“We have a space station in orbit, stopping the shuttle would mean stopping the space station … we can’t lose that investment,” he said.

He said NASA is eight to 10 years away from designing a shuttle replacement and that it is important to fix the shuttle for short-term needs.

“You can’t just snap your finger and get a fully capable replacement … we don’t have the technology to replace the shuttle because we haven’t spent any money on technology,” he said.

NASA’s budget decreased throughout the 1990s and even though the agency received a slight boost up to 14.5 billion last year, Logsdon said the organization has been severely under-funded.

While he said he does not expect the tragedy will lead to a major funding increase, given that next year’s NASA budget was decided months ago, he said the incident may create a discussion which will “revalidate the value of human space flight.”

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