A veteran astronaut fears the public views the space program as entertainment rather than a vehicle for the serious advancement of science and space exploration.

Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, who has made two space flights, says many youngsters think flying in space is impressive but lose interest when the subject turns to space-related jobs and the skills needed to hold them."If they can buy a ticket and go into space, that's OK, but the investment as a profession seems hefty," said Sullivan, a marine geologist, during an appearance at Texas Christian University Friday.

"It's an exciting place to be, a challenging place to be, but a smaller and smaller number of people come to take the challenge," she said.

Sullivan said she is concerned about the general lack of interest in math and science. She urged parents to find ways to tempt their children into space-related occupations and to pressure schools to provide the skills that children need to enter those fields.

The nation needs to look at its priorities and recognize that space exploration has a long-term role in advancing science and economics, she said.