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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Dr. John Grunsfeld

     Renewed Spirit of Discovery

Dr. Grunsfeld had to leave but indicated he wanted to answer more of your questions. We have forwarded questions to him and once he replies, we will post them on the site. Check back tomorrow for more answers.

Dr. John Grunsfeld
Greetings Earthlings!! Today is an incredible day for those of us on planet Earth, and for Mike Foale and Sasha Kaleri who are orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station right now. The President of the United States has just presented a National Space Policy containing a Vision for Space Exploration. This amazing vision is a compass to guide NASA into a new era of exploration, to the moon, to Mars, and beyond. I am thrilled to be online today with all of you. Having been to space on four flights, including 5 spacewalks to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope I can tell you that spaceflight is a magical experience. We live on a beautiful planet, a very special place in the Universe. With this new vision, we are embarking on a voyage for all humankind to explore new worlds. To explore, to discover, and to inspire: that is what NASA is all about, and is what we can chat about today. Perhaps one of you will be the first person to set foot on Mars!!!!!!!!

Pauline, from United Kingdom writes:
Has Nasa the right cost effective technology at the present in order for a manned visit to Mars? If not how long will it take given that the Jump of point would be from the Moon?

Dr. John Grunsfeld
Pauline, Great question. NASA does not have all of the technology that we need to go to Mars now. This new vision enables us to begin the development of those technologies that we need for exploration. We are committed to pursue architectures and technologies which allow us to explore in an affordable and sustainable fashion.


Fidel, from Downey, California writes:
In how many years will we be sending people to Mars? I'm 15, am I in the right timezone to go to go on a manned mission to Mars? Thanks for your time.

Dr. John Grunsfeld
Fidel, The President has presented us with a National Vision for Space Exploration which is exciting and ambitious. The Vision outlines a time frame to go back to the moon by 2020, and use our experience to embark to the red planet Mars after that. If you aspire to go to Mars, now is the right time to prepare, by studying math, science, and engineering. You are indeed in the zone! John

Joe, from Manchester, CT writes:
Hi Dr. Grunsfeld, thanks for taking the time to read my question. As a middle school physical education teacher, I was wondering what types of physical tests must you and your colleagues pass in order to endure the rigors of space travel?

Dr. John Grunsfeld
Joe, This is an awesome question. The real test of physical fitness begins when we get into space. We have learned that in the weightless environment of space our muscles atrophy and bones lose calcium. The key to preventing these deleterious effects is EXERCISE. On the International Space Station we do both aerobic exercise, and strength training to keep our muscles and bones strong. Of course this training begins well before flight and continues once we get back on Earth. The key to good health in space turns out to be the same for living on planet earth: exercise. John

Patrick, from Chicago writes:
Dr. Grunsfeld, will part of the permanent lunar base include a electromagnetic mass driver? Will NASA and astronauts at long last explore the poles of the moon in the search for water? Will NASA and astronauts drill into the lunar crust for exploration and water search purposes? And of course, where do I sign up?

Dr. John Grunsfeld
Patrick, With the new vision that our President presented to America today, NASA can begin the task of working out the details of our plan for lunar exploration. Mass drivers, drilling, the search for water and volatiles are all part of the exploration vision. I was inspired as a kid to study science, and with a dream to become an astronaut. I had no idea where to sign up, so science was my answer. Now you can just go to and explore your opportunity to sign up.

Great question. John

Philip, from Longview, TX writes:
What new emerging technologies are just about ready for use in space exploration? My science students want to know what technologies they can expect to be working in as adults.

Dr. John Grunsfeld
Philip, My first answer is that we will need technology across the board to support space exploration to the moon, Mars and beyond. Specifically we need new ideas in life support, space suits, software for robots, propulsion, nutrition, and science instruments for planetary exploration. Just imagine going on an expedition to the moon, or Mars! One of your students may be on the trip. --John

Steve, from Tampa writes:
As a science teacher in Tampa, FL., my students are very interested in the the recent mars landing as well as the future prospects for space exploration. They have 2 questions they would like you to address:

1. Why is there no video camera on the mars landers?

2. When the Apollo missions were announced, there was an emphasis in the school systems on science to help create the future scientists to work on the missions. Should students that are just now starting high school expect a similar emphasis?

Keep up the good work Thanks for your time.

Mr. Fisher's Science Class
Middleton High School
Tampa, FL

Dr. John Grunsfeld

Great questions. The lander has still cameras as they provide higher resolution pictures, and don't require as high a bandwidth for communication as video. The rover moves at a slow enough pace such that the still images are fine for navigation.

Education and inspiration are a key part of our exploration mission and your students can expect to be a part of this new vision for space.



VINNY, from NEW YORK writes:

Dr. John Grunsfeld
Vinny, Absolutely. The International Space Station is one of the brightest objects visible to the naked eye, near sunrise or sunset. You will need to know when and where to look, and of course have a clear sky. Go to and you can find the time to see ISS where you live. Happy star and ISS gazing, John

Dr. John Grunsfeld
As you read these posts I hope you got a small taste of the excitement that is ahead of all of us as we embark on this grand voyage to explore the solar system. There is so much more at NASA that is exciting, on Earth, and with Spirit on Mars, and beyond. Go to yourself and explore! Live long and prosper, John

Dr. Grunsfeld had to leave but indicated he wanted to answer more of your questions. We have forwarded questions to him and once he replies, we will post them on the site. Check back tomorrow for more answers.

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