Neil Armstrong has taken the rare step of speaking out publicly against proposed US space plans. And I can see why. The plans sound like a bad Daily Show skit, to the extent I’m surprised nobody mocked them earlier.
Three Apollo era astronauts have sent a letter to President Obama condemning his plans to cancel the Constellation space exploration program. The astronauts who signed the letter are Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan, and Neil Armstrong.
The letter expressed the concern that under the Obama space plan, America will not only not have a certain method of sending astronauts to low Earth orbit, but also will have defer plans to explore space beyond low Earth orbit for the foreseeable future.
"For The United States, the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future, destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature. While the President’s plan envisages humans traveling away from Earth and perhaps toward Mars at some time in the future, the lack of developed rockets and spacecraft will assure that ability will not be available for many years.
"Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity. America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal. "
Under the Obama space plan, Americans would initially ride to the International Space Station on Russian Soyuz spacecraft at a price of in excess of $50 million plus, though the price is expected to go higher with time. Then commercial space craft will be developed as space taxis to convey crews and cargo to ISS in a few years.
The Obama space plan cancels the Constellation space exploration program and instead proposes a research and development program to build "game changing" technology that would make such exploration easier and cheaper at some indeterminate time in the future.
Many analysts wonder, though, what the metrics are to judge the success of the new R&D program. No one in the Obama administration has articulated what has to happen before a future American president can say that once again American astronauts can go to the Moon and other places beyond low Earth orbit. There are concerns that the R&D program is unfocused and vague and will not lead to anywhere.
Neil Armstrong rarely makes public statements, preferring to live in relative obscurity. Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, is often mentioned in the history of exploration alongside Columbus, Magellan, and Lewis and Clark. So the fact that Neil Armstrong choose to express himself, among others, about the Obama space plan lends that expression extra weight.
Obama’s plan is to stop NASA flying into space, fire all employees associated with manned space missions, then in a couple of years rebuild all of their facilities from scratch and go straight to Mars. GENIUS! Why the f**k didn’t anybody think of just skipping straight to the endgame before?? Forget spending 10 years researching/experimenting with plans to go to Mars. Just wait 10 years and spend the money after space travel magically discovers itself!
Under Obama’s plan, NASA’s Earth Sciences programs will receive an additional $2.4 billion funding over the next five years, an increase of over 60%. Edward Weiler, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, told NPR “This administration has a clear priority for science in general and Earth science in specific. We’ve got to measure how fast the ice is being depleted, how fast carbon dioxide is being added to the atmosphere as opposed to being taken out of it.”
While Obama’s plan offers few practical, immediate steps for returning Americans to space, apart from salvaging part of the Constellation program to build a shuttle for the International Space Station, it does represent a major priority shift for the agency: from exploring outer space to studying the Earth from orbit.
His critics remain unconvinced of his plan’s efficacy. As Neil Armstrong’s letter closes, “Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity. America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal.”
This is equally bizarre. Being pro-science apparently means you gut space exploration, and spend the money taking pictures of glaciers instead. Dude, you don’t need NASA to do that. If you’re going to outsource anything outsource the fart measurements and iceberg photo-taking opps.