Don't fly me to the moon
Since becoming the first human to set foot on the moon 41 years ago, Neil Armstrong has been a virtual recluse. Unlike fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Armstrong would never think of appearing on Dancing With The Stars.
He never talks to the press, so it was big news when he sent an e-mail statement to major media outlets protesting President Obama's plans for NASA. In sharp language, Armstrong called the plans "devastating" to the U.S. space program and worries that it "destines our nation to become one of second- or even third-rate stature."
The letter was signed by Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, and Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell.
In contrast, Aldrin supports the president's reported plans to cancel or severely modify the Constellation program that would send astronauts back to the moon by 2020 and focus instead on developing a rocket for eventual manned flights into deep space, including Mars.
"We need to be in this for the long haul, and this program will allow us to again be pushing the boundaries to achieve new and challenging things beyond Earth," Aldrin said in a statement provided by the White House.
So who's right?
I'm not sure, but I suspect it's a debate that will continue for a while after Obama announces plans at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday. Some early observations:
- It's probably not good for Houston that Obama is making his announcement at KSC and not at JSC. Whatever plans are announced will mean more jobs in Florida and fewer in Clear Lake.
- Would we care if the Johnson Space Center weren't located in the Houston area? With so little attention being paid to the space program most of the time, I suspect that Houstonians wouldn't be nearly as up in arms if JSC were in Idaho.
- Obama reportedly will propose outsourcing many of NASA's current manned exploration programs to private spaceships. It's interesting that Texas Republicans, who blast Obama as a socialist who wants to expand the government at every opportunity, have not come to his defense when he touts a program that depends on private enterprise. But that's politics.