- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chocolate pudding cake is one favorite outer space food; humans are likely to encounter life from another planet; astronauts are adept at recycling their own urine into drinking water.

Those were three takeaways from testimonials to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology from Steve Swanson and Cmdr. G. Reid Wiseman, two astronauts who spoke to members of Congress from the International Space Station on Thursday.

Both men said that work on the ISS is going a long way toward eventually sending a person to Mars.

“I believe we should get ourselves to Mars,” Mr. Swanson said. “I know it’s a difficult road ahead to get there, but I believe we can do it and this is one of the first [blocks] that we have to do is learn how to live in space and recycle everything we need to from water, air, everything we need to do — we grow our own food, all that kind of stuff so we can reduce the amount of supplies with us, create a robust system.”

A government report released last month said NASA will be unable to conduct space missions beyond the orbit of the earth’s moon if funding for human spaceflight missions stays flat.

President George W. Bush famously outlined a long-term goal for the U.S. space program in 2004 that included a manned mission to Mars. NASA officials later suggested that such a mission could be undertaken by 2037, at a cost of $11 billion and say their strategy does target Mars.

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“If we’re going to go to Mars, we’re going to set out on a 3+ year journey,” Cmdr. Wiseman said. “This is the test bed. This is where we start the fundamental blocking and tackling of this challenge to get to Mars.”

“Our water balance is almost at 90 percent, so we recycle our urine into drinking water, we recycle water into oxygen, we have a really amazing regenerative system up here and it’s proving extremely effective and we’re working on reliability — that’s another step in that quest,” he added.

Cmdr. Wiseman said his path toward becoming first a Navy pilot and eventually an astronaut likely began when he saw a space shuttle flying on the back of a 747 in the early 1980s when he was about six years old — an image “burned into my mind.”

“We never know that a little thing that’s going to spark the imagination of a child’s mind,” he said.

He also said he “cannot get enough” of chocolate pudding cake in space even though he said he tried it on earth and didn’t like it. A fellow Marylander, Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards, said she’d send him some freeze-dried crab cakes.

Mr. Swanson also said he believes human beings will encounter life from another planet.

“As Reid pointed out, as you look up there’s so many solar systems out there, so many planets, so many possibilities, I figure that it just has to be somewhere, sometime it will happen,” he said.

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