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Former Astronauts Still Talking

Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan were back in Washington, DC last week sounding off to a House Committee about the direction of human spaceflight.

Both moon landing heroes obviously don’t see the kind of enthusiasm and commitment to human spaceflight that they remember from Apollo days. Without a Red Menace to scare money out of Congress, that is not going to change.

From Humanspaceflight.com-

As the Space Launch System (SLS) continues to push on – with the latest stage being the release of the acquisition overview – NASA’s recent official announcement of the new launch vehicle has been warmly received by the first and last men to walk on the Moon. However, both Neil Armstrong and Captain Gene Cernan remain concerned by the lack of goals and destinations…

Armstrong-

The past year has been frustrating to NASA observers, as they tried to understand NASA’s plans and progress. The NASA leadership enthusiastically assured the American people that the agency was embarking on an exciting new age of discovery in the cosmos…But the realities of the termination of the Shuttle program, the cancellation of existing rocket launcher and spacecraft programs, the layoffs of thousands of aerospace workers, and the outlook for American space activity throughout the next decade were difficult to reconcile with the agency assertions…

Cernan-

Until this past week, NASA had continued to disregard, ignore, and flaunt the law and the mandate of the Congress while continuing to pursue its own agenda of disabling our nation’s space program. It had become obvious that NASA as directed by the Administration has had no interest in following the law and the mandate of Congress in the development of a heavy lift launch vehicle…

…Today we are on a path of decay. We are seeing the book closed on five decades of accomplishments as the world’s leading space-faring nation. As unimaginable as it seems, we have now come full circle and ceded our leadership role in space back to the same country, albeit with a different name, that spurred our challenge five decades ago…My immediate concerns are the deterioration of our technological base, the lack of stability of the NASA budget when considering the present state of the economy, the absence of the Administration’s commitment to cooperate with Congress and forge an ambitious program, the question of continued bi-partisan Congressional support, and perhaps the most important risk with lasting effect, is the loss and dismemberment of our skilled workforce…

Full story…

Spacepolitics asks (dated Sept 23), “Did yesterday’s sound and fury signify anything?

…So this hearing may have been little more than an opportunity for critics of the administration’s plan—which, as the NASA statement implied, has the endorsement of Congress in the form of last year’s authorization act—to vent their frustrations that things aren’t going they way they would like, rather than an attempt to reshape policy in the near-term. With the current authorization act in effect for two more fiscal years, and little interest by appropriators to rectify those perceived shortcomings by, say, putting more money into SLS and MPCV (or CCDev), the current policy is likely to be in place at least into 2013. And even if a new president takes office in January 2013, space is probably not going to be a high priority for him or her given the current focus of candidates’ campaigns on jobs, the economy, and other issues outside the realm of human spaceflight.

Full story…

Nasawatch has a lot more detail and links to statements and testimony…

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2 Responses to “Former Astronauts Still Talking”

  • Ironically, the threat today from Chinese economic domination of the world and possibly the solar system is far more serious than competing against the inherently inefficient communist system of the former Soviet Union.

  • mike shupp:

    Sad story. Strikes me these senior astronauts decided they should behave like retired statesmen in the post-NASA lives, giving dignity and majesty to the enterprise which they had served… carefully preserving their distance from religious zealots and ESP cranks and attention-grabbing shills.

    And when it finally dawned on them that their notion of what spaceflight should be was going down the toilet, it was too late to make an effective protest.

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