Culbertson, a retired astronaut who was the only American not on the planet on Sept. 11, 2001, is co-chairman of Saturday's Chantilly Day Festival at the Sully Place Shopping Center on Metrotech Drive. He lives in the area.

Why is this event so important?

It's important for people in the community to see what's going on in the area. There's a lot of high-tech work happening here, and I'd like to see the students pay more attention to the science, technology, engineering and math courses and see that there are local opportunities to apply those skills. I'd like to encourage as many people as possible to come out and bring kids of all ages so they can see what their future might look like if they were to focus on these areas.

Are you worried about our approach to science and math education?

I'm very concerned about how we as a country maintain leadership in areas that we have excelled at in the past. Without an educated workforce at all levels, we will fall behind others in the rest of the world.SClB

You're perhaps most famous for the photo you took from space on Sept. 11. Is space a way to break down barriers?

Definitely. The cooperation with the former USSR and European Space Agency and Japan has demonstrated our ability to work internationally on a very complex project. Our relationship with the Russians is a great example of being able to overcome those differences, and we've been able to establish great personal trust.

We've heard a lot about space tourism. What do you think of that?

The more people who go to space, the more people who will be interested in it. It's very important that we keep exploring because that's what humans do, and we need to expand our frontiers, in part to help motivate our next generations to become well educated and take chances and risks.

-- Alan Blinder