17/12/2006. Contributed by Jessica Martin
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Friday called the exploration of space the boldest human adventure yet conceived and emphasised the importance of international collaboration in journeys to the moon, Mars and other destinations in the solar system.
"The exploration and development of the space frontier is, truly, the most technically challenging endeavor of our generation and many to follow," Griffin told the British Royal Society in an address marking its Anniversary Day. "But in carrying it forward, we are building on the heroic exploits of our forbears in their own missions of human exploration and scientific discovery."
In addition to addressing the Royal Society, Griffin earlier helped present its prestigious Copley Medal to famed physicist Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University for his contributions to theoretical cosmology. The British Royal Society is the world's oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, and has been at the forefront of scientific research and exploration since it was founded in 1660.
Comparing future human expeditions to Mars and other destinations in the solar system with the journeys of 17th and 18th century European explorers, which expanded their nations' reach and influence in the world but often at a high cost, including loss of life, Griffin said, "We must be resolute in our convictions, and despite setbacks, we must recognize that progress through human exploration and scientific discovery is a goal worthy of the costs and risks of the enterprise."
Griffin called for collaboration among nations in traveling to the moon, Mars and other destinations in the solar system and noted the important contributions of international cooperation in such technological developments as global communications and navigation systems.
Of about 60 ongoing space and Earth science missions, over half have some form of international participation. "Two-thirds of all NASA missions currently under development incorporate international partners. And of course, NASA's premier human spaceflight program, the development of the International Space Station, is an effort involving some 15 nations," he said. "I believe with all my heart that, with the exploration of space, we are embarked upon the boldest human adventure yet conceived," he said. "We are limited only by our imagination, ambition, ingenuity, persistence and leadership."
The medal Griffin presented to Hawking yesterday was flown into orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery in July at the request of astronaut Piers Sellers, a native of England.
"Stephen Hawking has become a household name, known as a brilliant physicist by people who have no other knowledge of physics," Griffin said. "Through his contributions to the understanding of time and space, ranging from black holes to worm holes, he has earned a reputation as one of the most imaginatively perceptive scientists of all time. We at NASA are honored to have had a part in making Dr. Hawking's receipt of the famed Copley Medal a truly special occasion, by presenting to him this medal, flown in space aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-121."
First awarded by the Royal Society in 1731, the Copley Medal pre-dates the Nobel Prize by 170 years. It is awarded for outstanding achievements in scientific research and has been awarded to such scientific giants as Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Albert Einstein and Louis Pasteur.
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