More technically trained people are needed for careers in the space program, which is limited only by a lack of funding, Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, said Monday.
Speaking to a space science workshop at the University of Utah, Garn made a strong plea for young people to spend more time and effort in preparing themselves academically.And the senator, who in 1985 flew as a payload specialist on the space shuttle Discovery, performing various medical and other tests, criticized his congressional colleagues for failure to adequately fund space research and exploration.
The free two-week workshop, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Space Grant Consortium, is titled "Visit to Mars." A Mars station is a major goal in the U.S. space program because it is the next step in the human exploration of the solar system.
With all the progress being made in space research and exploration, Garn said, further exploration of Mars is within reach.
"The only limiting factor would be the Congress and its tight budgets for space exploration," he said.
Garn said he is greatly concerned about what he called the scientific illiteracy of the population.
He said he gets worried about the future of America, its trade deficits and financial-type relationships "because we are not doing a good enough job in maintaining ourselves in this whole area of space science and technology."
Garn said most people in Congress don't strongly object to space research and exploration. But he said they fail to follow through in approving adequate funds because such programs usually don't produce immediate results.
"We don't spend as much on the whole area (space and related programs) as we do on food stamps. And my purpose is not to knock food stamps. There are a lot of people who are needy and who need that help. It is simply to illustrate the point that Congress is shortsighted.'
The senator, who showed filmed highlights of his and other crew members' work aboard the 1985 space shuttle flight, said his interest goes beyond the space shuttle.
"It is to the whole technological base of this country. We are not funding the National Science Foundation sufficiently. We are not training enough math and science teachers to teach in the middle schools and the high schools in this country," he said.
Reaching out to graduate, undergraduate and high school students and trying to excite them about space is a goal of the Rocky Mountain Space Grant Consortium.
The consortium, which has headquarters at Utah State University and also includes the University of Utah, the University of Denver and Thiokol Corp., is sponsoring a free two-week workshop in the Room 104 of the U. Engineering and Mines Classroom Building.
The public is invited to sessions, which run through Friday, June 22, and Monday through Friday, June 25-29.