Space travel gives explorers new perspectives, former astronaut says

As space travel becomes commercial and more common and more people are able to see the Earth from space, humans “will become citizens of this planet,” said former senator and astronaut Jake Garn. Garn spoke to Utah State University students in the Taggart Student Center Hub Friday, Sept. 16, for Constitution Day in an event created by the USU College Republicans. Space explorers get to bond in a unique way. Garn said seeing Earth without country borders and as “one, tiny speck of dirt” in the entire universe changes a person’s attitude. “When you’re out in space and looking out at the galaxies and realize there are more galaxies out there than all the individual grains of sand on every beach on Earth, and we’ve got to fight and kill each other, have all the wars we’ve had based on race or languages we speak, silly differences in opinion that make no sense whatsoever, because when you realize how insignificant the planet Earth is in the overall scheme of things, we’re all children of God traveling on spaceship Earth together,” he said. Garn graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in business and finance. He served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974. When Garn ran for a second Senate term in 1980, he earned 74 percent of the vote, which is the largest percentage in Utah history. In 1985, Garn orbited the Earth 108 times in the shuttle Discovery as the first congressman to enter space. Because of the Earth’s rotation, Garn experienced 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets per 24 hours while orbiting the planet. There is “no doubt” in Garn’s mind life exists on other planets. He said God wouldn’t be so wasteful as to create life on one planet of all the galaxies, but he also said one doesn’t need to believe in God to believe life on other planets is possible. The Constitution of the United States is one reason why Garn was able to have the opportunities he did in his lifetime. “It took me a long time when I was growing up to realize that other people around this planet don’t live the way we do, have all the freedom and opportunity and the choices to make,” he said. “So many dictatorships are still here on Earth, robbing wonderful human beings of amazing opportunities we enjoy here in the United States,” he said. College was the time of the most change for Garn. At the University of Utah he learned to expand his thinking and set goals – skills he still uses today. Garn said it’s important for college students to prepare their minds now for technological advances to come in the future. While it’s impossible to know what new technologies and careers the future holds, getting an education and training the mind to think will open up possibilities in the future. “You’ll be able to come back here to Utah State, stand up here and talk to your friends and students about all the amazing technological developments, all the things you’ve been able to experience because you trained your brain, because you’re intelligent and capable enough, educated enough to take advantage of the opportunities that will occur just like they did in my life time.” When a young boy in the audience Friday asked Garn what he thought of U.S. President Barack Obama shutting down the U.S.’s space shuttles, Garn first acknowledged that Obama didn’t make the decision on his own and then went on to say he didn’t “even comprehend” stopping the shuttle before finding a vehicle to replace it. He also said eliminating NASA would account for only six-tenths of 1 percent of the federal budget. “People say ‘why do we waste money in space when we have so many problems on Earth?'” Garn said. “We’ve never wasted a dime in space – there aren’t any stores out there. Every dollar is spent here on Earth.” – rachel@cvdaily.com

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