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Former NASA engineer - now a Southern University professor - eagerly awaits SpaceX launch and future space exploration

3 years 6 months 1 week ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 May 26, 2020 9:00 PM May 26, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - It's been more than 50 years since Morgan Watson left his position as a NASA engineer, but ahead of Wednesday's SpaceX launch, the event still brings the Southern professor good memories and hope for more space exploration in the future.

"We've come a long way, and we've got a long way to go," Watson said. "I think this is a step in the right direction."

As two American astronauts prepare to liftoff from Cape Canaveral, for the first time in nearly a decade, emotions from launch days came flooding back. 

"I used to get up very early in the morning on the day of the launch to listen to Walter Cronkite and hear him," Watson said. "A lot of butterflies for one thing. And there's a lot of excitement. And there's a lot of anxiety, and sometimes a lot of apprehensions.

From 1964 until 1968, Watson worked as an engineer for NASA, contributing to many missions including the famed Apollo 11 moon landing. Even though a lot has changed in space exploration since then, he is still able to return to when he and his colleagues were on the cutting edge of space travel. 

"It sort of takes us back at least 50 years to our younger days and the excitement we had then," Watson said. "We just hope that we could pass that excitement on to his younger generation."

Watson isn't looking forward to SpaceX's launch just for personal enjoyment, though. He says with so much more to learn about space, this mission provides a glimpse into the future. 

"I think the future is that people, ordinary people, can just go into space," Watson said. "There are some problems that have to be overcome. I think this will pave the way for much broader space exploration. Not only from a scientific and military standpoint but just for ordinary people."

Now in his 70s and teaching thermodynamics at his alma mater, Southern University, Watson still has a child-like wonder when it comes to NASA. A feeling many will have during Wednesday's launch. Amid COVID-19, he can't think of a better time for an American launch into outer space. 

"This is something that can give us something to get excited about," Watson said. "In spite of what is going on around us, there are still some good things on the horizon for the future."

Watson hopes with SpaceX's launch, the importance of NASA and space exploration will reemerge and younger generations will follow his footsteps, letting that child-like wonder lead them to new discoveries beyond Earth. 

"We've seen so many science fiction movies and other things, that it makes space seem like it's not a new frontier anymore, but it is," Watson said. "I think this maybe should bring some reality to that. Going back to the moon. Going further than the moon, to some of the nearest planets, are right on the horizon, and I think we should take advantage of it."

For information on how to watch Wednesday's rocket launch on WBRZ, click here.

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