The little boy needed to know.
"What happens if the shuttle lands in the water on the way back?" Truette Stubbs, 6, asked, waving his hand feverishly in the air.
"Well, we tell the astronauts that they better land on the runway or else the alligators in the water will get them," George Haddad of NASA said.
"But we have some great pilots," he added, "and you could be one of them some day if you pursue your dreams."
Haddad, who has worked at NASA since 1989 and been involved with several shuttle missions, was the guest speaker Saturday at the National Museum of Naval Aviation. His presentation, "NASA's Past, Present and Future" was part of Space Day, one of the Discovery Saturday events at the museum. The event also included the showing of the movie "Hubble" in the IMAX theater, an opportunity to taste astronaut food, Haddad's hour-long presentation and the chance for children to build paper rockets and launch them into the atrium alongside retired Blue Angels jets.
Many of those in attendance wanted to satisfy their curiosity about the direction of the space program after the return of space shuttle Atlantis on Thursday.
Carl Breland was a child in 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon. He has fond memories of gathering around the television to watch the historic event.
"When I was younger, everyone wanted to be an astronaut," Breland said. "We have a lot invested in space, and I don't know where we go from here with the landing of Atlantis."
Many at the event shared the same concern as Breland, but Haddad assured them that NASA simply is in transition.
"Although the shuttle program is ending, as all great things do, we are still pushing forward," he said. "We are still going to continue space exploration and space flight."
Haddad said NASA is planning a replacement shuttle for Atlantis. Haddad said the next generation of shuttle will be smaller and easier to launch and maintain.
"It was truly amazing what we did with the space shuttle program," he said. "We completed 135 extremely beneficial missions, and we are going to continue working on the future shuttle in hopes of many more missions."