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OASIS member Norm Cook, an engineer who works for the Boeing Company on the Space Station in Huntington Beach, described the size and scope of the program, the biggest international effort ever undertaken in peacetime. "The International Space Station will be larger than a football field and will be one of the brightest objects in the sky when its completed in 2004," stated Cook. The first two pieces of the facility were launched at the end of 1998.
Cook discussed the efforts of the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan, Italy, Canada, and Brazil, on the orbiting lab, which will provide valuable knowledge in the fields of biology, astronomy, materials science, physics, meteorology and other areas. He said that it will also serve as a base of operations to learn about on-orbit assembly and maintenance of a complex spacecraft. Cook provided the audience with multi-color fact sheets on the program.
Dr. Jim Busby, of the Orange County Space Society, addressed the history of space stations, including the American Skylab platform, the Russian series of Salyut space stations, and the current Mir station. "The Russians have built and operated eight space stations over almost thirty years," Busby said. "Their experience and participation in ISS really improves the chances that it will succeed."
The main attraction to the panel was actor and NSS Board of Governors member Bruce Boxleitner, who put a human perspective on the effort. "What these people, these engineers and scientists from around the world, are trying to do is to push the envelope of human understanding," he remarked. "I have to take my hat off to all of the astronauts and cosmonauts who're going to put this thing together: Its dangerous, exhausting work in cramped, sometimes smelly quarters and they can't make any mistakes while doing it," he said.
Boxleitner, who recently completed the role of Captain John Sheridan, leader of the Babylon 5 space station in the television series of the same name, has been to several Space Shuttle launches along with castmate Jerry Doyle. On one such trip, the actors got a close-up view of the Shuttle and payloads being loaded into it. "What I found funny," he said, "was that the launch crews, who're doing amazing things with real space hardware, were asking me if my character on the show was going to marry Delenn [another character on the show]. These guys are doing the cool stuff, not me!"
The audience asked the panel numerous questions about the research planned for the Station, the requirements for being an astronaut, and efforts to commercialize the Station. Panel moderator and OASIS Board member Steve Bartlett coordinated the talk and fielded questions on Station assembly and maintenance. His openning remarks on what the International Space Station wasn't drew audience laughter when he gently ribbed Boxleitner with, "I'm sorry, Captain, it won't help in our war against the Shadows," referring to the actor's television role.
Following the talk, OASIS and OCSS members gathered together for a series of group pictures with Boxleitner.
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