On the eve of Wednesday's now delayed Discovery shuttle launch, “DaySide” producer Michael Sorrentino posed these questions to Dr. Rhea Seddon, who was scheduled to appear on the show.
Seddon is a former NASA astronaut (search) who has flown aboard three space missions from 1985 - 1993, and is now the assistant chief medical officer of the Vanderbilt Medical Group in Nashville, Tennessee. Seddon retired from NASA in 1997.
DAYSIDE: What is NASA looking to accomplish in this launch?
RHEA SEDDON: Two of the primary objectives are to test the repairs made to the shuttle after the Columbia accident and to resupply the International Space Station (search). NASA has to be confident that damage to the orbiter from foam coming off the external tank during launch will not occur again and that they have the ability to examine the shuttle on orbit. The station can be used as a “safe haven” in case damage occurs. Routine supplies and a number of important pieces of equipment will be taken to the station. Only the shuttle can carry large pieces of hardware to the ISS.
DAYSIDE: What is the crew doing to prepare in the final moments before launch?
SEDDON: Today the flight crew flew practiced approaches to the Kennedy Space Center runway in the Shuttle Training Aircraft (search). Should the shuttle lose an engine shortly after lift off the crew could fly it back to Florida.
DAYSIDE: Do you see us going back to the moon in the near future?
SEDDON: President Bush has started a new initiative to look at a moon base and going to Mars (search). NASA is studying what it would take to do those things in the near future.
DAYSIDE: Do the technological advantages outweigh the costs for the space program?
SEDDON: Studies have shown that the pay back to the U.S. economy far outweighs the cost of the space program. Equipment, materials, processes, software, automation, miniaturization, remote sensing and many other things have come from what has been developed initially for space.
DAYSIDE: Would you go on the "Return to Space" flight if asked?
SEDDON: Definitely! It will be one of the safest ever flown because the entire team realizes it is so important to start flying safely again. I’ll be there in spirit.
—"DaySide" airs weekdays at 1 p.m. ET.