NASA guru Dennis Andrucyk answers your space questions

By national science and technology reporter Jake Sturmer
External Link: NASA's Dennis Andrucyk answers space questions on ABC Facebook live
We caught up with one of NASA's top science gurus в─" Dennis Andrucyk from the administration's Science Mission Directorate.
We asked him your questions about everything from Mars to whether you could survive a gravity slingshot. Here's what he had to say:
Do you think that there's the public support for the Mars mission like there was in the '60s with man on the Moon?
"It may not be that same imperative but I tell you what there is a lot of excitement behind going to Mars and the kind of science that we can do there. The Curiosity rover is returning all kinds of science.
"We now believe that there is water on Mars that could possibly sustain life.
"On Mars 2020 [the next rover that's due to arrive in 2020] ... there's a payload on there called the MOXIE payload, it's going to take the Martian atmosphere, convert it to oxygen that can then be used for humans that will go в─" or for return fuel to have those astronauts come home."
Why do we need to send people to Mars? Can't probes do a good enough job of gathering scientific information?
"Probes can certainly do a great job of gathering science, but when you add people they can actually perform that science in a much more efficient or faster manner.
"Certainly a rover can go collect samples but the Mars Curiosity rover в─" as good as it is в─" it's only travelled 16 kilometres in the four-plus years that it's been there because it is a robot, it requires a lot of Earth intervention.
"People will be able to do this kind of exploration in a more efficient manner."
Photo: Mr Andrucyk said the Mars rover still requires a lot of human intervention. (Supplied: NASA)
What do you need to do if you want to be on the first manned mission to Mars?
"There's a lot of technology that we still need to pursue в─" we have to get quite a bit of infrastructure there to support people.
"One of the key ingredients in considering a mission to mars would be how long you stay.
"It would take six months get there, six months to get back. When it comes to planetary alignments, you might be on Mars for a two-year mission if you go there.
"So we have a lot of infrastructure we'd have to get in place.
"The Johnson Space Centre when they select astronauts for the astronaut corps, it's not just about physical abilities or education в─" those kind of interpersonal skills come into play and how you can operate for long periods of time without people around you come into play in the astronaut selection."
What do you make of the commercial rocket industry? Do you worry they might encroach on your territory?
"Encroaching? Oh no, not at all. I think it's wonderful.
"The more players we have in the space environment the better positioned we are to gather science and that's what it's all about.
"The Government is in a position to help commercial entities provide a launch capability and it gives us an opportunity to explore in places we haven't been before."
Photo: The Falcon 9 is a rocket designed and manufactured by private company SpaceX. (Flickr: SpaceX)
In the early days of the Trump administration we heard reports about concerns of scientific information relating to climate disappearing. Is that something you've seen or observed?
"Not at all. The science community that I know and love is very interested in maintaining and capturing all the information we can possibly get, maintaining archives for the future.
"Science data that you can compare today's results to tomorrow's results is really where we get the calibration and precision of knowledge.
"So maintaining that information is key and I've not heard of anything that would damage that."
Could a human survive a 'gravity slingshot'?
That's a manoeuvre where spacecraft use the gravitational pull of another planet to slingshot it further and wider into our solar system. It was crucial in the Rosetta mission (where they landed a probe on a comet in 2014).
Photo: An impression of the European Space Agency probe Rosetta. (European Space Agency: European Space Agency)
"When they launched on the space shuttle, typically you would keep the G- factor to about 3Gs," Mr Andrucyk said.
"And a fighter pilot is probably about eight or nine Gs в─" but only for a very short amount of time. So I would have to get a guidance navigation and control person and some humans factors people to give me that answer."