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CrassostreaVirginica t1_j431dzr wrote

Hi, and thanks for this AMA.

For Mr. Davenport: Do you (or might you in the future) ever cover the US Space Force, in addition to NASA and the space industry, or does something like that typically fall under the purview of the Post's defense-focused journalists?

For Mr. Reisman: What sorts of things does a 'mission specialist' do, and can that vary a lot from specialist to specialist?


washingtonpost OP t1_j436z6q wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

'Mission Specialist' was a designation we used during the Space Shuttle Program to refer to astronauts who were not either the Commander or Pilot. So Mission Specialists did not directly operate the flight controls on the Shuttle, but we did serve as flight engineers, robotics operators, payload operators and spacewalkers.

So 'Mission Specialist' was a bit of a misnomer since we were really generalists - trained to do all those things. Only once you were assigned to a specific flight did you specialize and train intensively on the tasks you were to perform on that mission.

Today NASA considers all astronauts to be simply 'Astronauts' and there is no longer a distinction between 'Pilot Astronauts' and 'Mission Specialist Astronauts' as there was back in the Shuttle days.


washingtonpost OP t1_j433o04 wrote

From Christian Davenport:

I'm fascinated by the Space Force and remember hearing a top Pentagon official talk about the threats in space years ago. He recalled the general panic over Sputnik, in 1957, which was little more than a ball with a radio transmitter, and said that if the American public were paying attention to everything going on in space today--even the unclassified activity--there would be that level of concern. Now, the threats in space have come to the forefront, and we saw in late 2021 how Russia blew up a dead satellite creating a massive debris field. We've also seen in Ukraine, the rise of commercial satellite imagery playing a huge role and test the rules of warfare. I wrote a lengthy story about this. SpaceX's Starlink Internet constellation has also given Ukraine a big boost that has helped its military tremendously.