As one of only 339 people to be selected by NASA as astronauts, Captain Winston Scott is quite literally one in a million. Speaking from the Inc. 5000 conference in San Antonio on Thursday, Captain Scott, an astronaut who flew on space shuttles Endeavor and Columbia, shared his views on his experience in space, teambuilding, and private space programs. Here are some excerpts from his presentation.
On the physical toll of being in space:
Your body does adjust going up, and has to readjust going back. But your calcium loss doesn't completely recover. People on the space station will lose so much calcium that they never fully recover it. One of the things we have to learn is how to prevent that deterioration. There is also blood loss. We do try to exercise in space. Some people believe that pharmaceuticals could play a part there.
On a possible flight to Mars:
Our long term goal should be the colonization of Mars. We have differing visions on how we get there. Do we go back to the moon first? Buzz Aldrin is saying bypass the moon, go directly to Mars. Personally, I'd like to see us go back to the moon, and build a permanent human presence. If we understand how the earth is evolving we can better understand how we can take care of it.
On private space exploration:
I absolutely love SpaceX. I think Elon Musk is a visionary. I think what he is doing is fantastic. The space station is already being resupplied by SpaceX and a couple of other private companies.
Government is very good at cutting-edge new discoveries. But it's terrible at doing things in an efficient manner. We need people like you and like Elon Musk who can make these things efficient and cost-effective.
I have no doubt that Elon Musk will get to Mars. I don't know if he'll be the first. He's not just a talker. He makes it happen.
When we were put together, the six of us [the astronauts with whom he first flew], we sort of knew each other, but we had never worked very closely together. For that to work you want very strong teamwork.
If you remember the basics of team forming, there are four steps. Forming, storming, norming, and performing. First you're forming. Nobody knows each other, they're real polite, and then there's storming. There's a little conflict. You go through those, you do the norming where you work together, and then you get to peak performance. You can't skip a step. If you don't go through those you will never get to performing.
There is discipline on the crew. It's the discipline of people putting aside personal preferences for the good of the team.
You work closely for a year together before you fly. Your families will spend time together and you travel together. By the time you reach orbit you know each other well, because your lives depend on it.
On learning to focus:
The military requires attention to detail. That might seem kind of anal, but what they're trying to teach you is attention to detail. Making a bed so two inches of sheet are just so is not important. But if you're flying a tomcat [and trying to land on an aircraft carrier], and you're two knots too slow, you can slam into the back of the ship.
Some of the people I work with at university are brilliant people but their minds are all over the place. I love to have them in my laboratory but I don't want them flying my planes.