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Astronaut Clayton Anderson breaks down Jeff Bezos' space launch

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Astronaut Clayton Anderson joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the signifcance of Blue Orgin's successful trip to space on Tuesday.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: OK, so we are a long way off from the RV builders in Elkhart, Indiana and Shipshewana making Winnebagos that go into space. But what happened today was definitely cool, because when Jeff Bezos and three other people in a private-funded spacecraft blast into-- they didn't get into orbit, but they were in space-- they went past that 62-mile line-- they made history.

And to talk about what this historic moment means for not only Blue Origin, we want to invite into the stream former NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson, a motivational speaker and author, as well as Stiehm education advocate. There's so much that you have done. The coolest thing, though, is that you were aboard the International Space Station for more than 160 days. What were you thinking when you saw Bezos and his crew go into space today?

CLAYTON ANDERSON: I was thinking it was pretty exciting, and I just finished my training flow would have been that short. Those guys did an amazing thing today. Congratulations to them. And I hope it's the start of something big for all folks on the planet Earth.

SEANA SMITH: And speaking of that, just in terms of what this could mean for the next steps of space, I guess, do you think that there will be lessons, or are there lessons that we have learned from today that can be used for some of our bigger efforts in space?

CLAYTON ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. I think that most people need to understand, I think spaceflight is an investment. In other words, what we learn along the way to developing-- to get to any destination, whether it's low Earth orbit, the Space Station, the moon, or Mars, we're going to develop technology and new capabilities all along the way.

And Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin folks, they were able to piggyback on over 40 years of NASA work, because they did today what Alan Shepard and the Mercury program did in 1961, but they did it more efficiently, and in a way cooler fashion based on the leaps in technology, and composites, and all that kind of stuff. So kudos to them, and I hope we continue in this direction.

ADAM SHAPIRO: So when you talk about that, some of the changes-- one, reusable rockets-- so cool to watch not only this device, the Blue Origin rocket, but also, I mean, SpaceX rockets, the boosters actually come back to Earth and land on their own. But the other issue that you talked about, you said, get to Mars.

And I heard a colleague of yours, an astronaut, Mae Jemison, say that we've always had the technology to get there, we just lacked the funding and the will to do it. Is that going to happen in our lifetime, do you think, that we get to Mars-- people on Mars?

CLAYTON ANDERSON: Well, it depends on how long you live, I think. I would say that we don't have the technology. Can we send a propulsive rocket with a capsule to Mars? Yes. But when you say the technology needed, there's so much more than just simply the physics technology that gets us from point A to B.

One of the things I worry about the most is the psychological aspect of a long journey to Mars-- six to nine months away from Earth just to get there, six to nine months on the surface to wait for the planets to align again so you can get back in six to nine months. And when you get about three or four days away from Earth, it won't be Earth anymore. It'll be a little dot. And I think those psychological aspects of this are something we still need to challenge.

SEANA SMITH: Clayton, we want to play-- obviously, there's a lot of excitement. Jeff Bezos is extremely excited following the successful launch this morning. But let's just play a quick clip from what we heard during a press conference following that launch earlier today.

JEFF BEZOS: What we're doing is the first step of something big. And I know what that feels like. I did it three decades ago-- almost three decades ago with Amazon. And we are-- big things start small. But you can tell-- you can tell when you're on to something.

And this is important. We're going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build the future. And we need to do that. We need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth.

SEANA SMITH: Clayton, I'd love just to get your reaction, then, specifically what he was talking about there at the very end that we need this in order to solve some of the problems that we're seeing here on Earth during this time.

CLAYTON ANDERSON: Well, I don't disagree with what he said. As I said before, spaceflights and investment-- and no matter where we're going, the technology that gets developed is the technology that comes back to aid every single human being on the planet. So from satellite technology looking back at our Earth, looking out into the distance of space, to tennis shoes that have their soles based on Apollo moon boots, to center pivot irrigation systems-- I mean, the list goes on and on.

Folks can check NASA Spinoffs just to see the tremendous number of developments that help people here on Earth. And I firmly believe that if everyone on our planet could spend a few days in space and a few weeks in a third world country, all of our visions of life together here on this planet would change for the better.

ADAM SHAPIRO: We really appreciate your being here. And again, you've had one of the coolest careers of millions of people here on the planet. You're one of the few who got to go into space. Clayton Anderson, astronaut, motivational speaker, author-- always good to have people like you here. And we appreciate your service to our country.

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