Moon man - US space plan embarrassing

2011-09-22 21:45

Washington - Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, told lawmakers on Thursday that the end of the space shuttle era has left the American human space flight programme in an "embarrassing" state.

"We will have no American access to, and return from, low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for an unpredictable length of time in the future," Armstrong told the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

"For a country that has invested so much for so long to achieve a leadership position in space exploration and exploitation, this condition is viewed by many as lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable."

Armstrong was part of a four-member panel of space experts who told lawmakers that Nasa needs a stronger vision for the future and should focus on returning humans to the Moon and to the International Space Station.

"A lead, however earnestly and expensively won, once lost, is nearly impossible to regain," said the US astronaut, now 81, who was commander of Apollo 11 and walked on the Moon in 1969.

President Barack Obama cancelled the Constellation programme that would have returned humans to the Moon and called on Nasa to instead focus on new, deep-space capabilities to carry people to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by 2030.

The retirement in July of the three-decade-old space shuttle programme brought an end to the US capability to send humans to space until private industry can come up with a new commercial space capsule to the ISS, maybe by 2015.

In the meantime, Russia's Soyuz capsules are the only taxis for the world's astronauts heading to low-Earth orbit, and each ticket to the ISS costs global space agencies between $50 and $60m each.

Crank up the motors

"Get the shuttle out of the garage down there at Kennedy (Space Centre), crank up the motors and put it back in service," said Eugene Cernan, who commanded the Apollo 17 flight and was the last man to walk on the Moon in 1972.

"You want a launch vehicle today that will service the ISS? We've got it sitting down there. So before we put it in a museum, let's make use of it. It's in the prime of its life, how could we just put it away?"

Cernan hailed the vision of John F Kennedy, "a bold and courageous president who started us on a journey to the stars," and said thousands of Americans have been inspired by the space race with the Soviet Union.

"Today, we are on a path of decay. We are seeing the book close on five decades of accomplishment as the leader in human space exploration," Cernan said.

"As unimaginable as it seems, we have now come full circle and ceded our leadership role in space back to the same country - albeit by a different name - that spurred our challenge five decades ago."

He said Constellation has been replaced by a "mission to nowhere" and called on Nasa to make plans to return to the Moon.

  • MyWereld - 2011-09-22 22:44

    Our priorities should be EARTH first. Take the billions wasted on the big toys for the big boys and feed the millions dying hungry children.

      Valis - 2011-09-23 03:44

      How short-sighted can you be? Space exploration has brought massive economic (and other) benefits to people on Earth. In fact, if it wasn't for the space program, there would be HUNDREDS of millions of starving children in the world today, not just millions.

      shmangle - 2011-09-23 10:24

      Do you have any idea how many technological breakthroughs started out at NASA? You're an idiot. There will always be starving people, doesn't mean we shouldn't be exploring space. There is more to the universe than our little rock.

      Bontage - 2011-09-23 12:30

      While I agree with Valis and Shmangle that space travel is essential, both to expanding our knowledge and guaranteeing the survival of the human race, MyWereld raises a good point. Are the billions spent on space travel not better spent getting the world on a better footing. Remember, this is not a cancellation of the space race, just a postponement.

      Barry M - 2011-09-23 15:32

      The bottom line here is that the world is horribly overpopulated and the earth’s resources are being used at a rapid rate - this is not sustainable. A decline in the human population would in fact be a godsend. When the depletion of resources gets to the point where the world can no longer sustain the human disg-race that we have become we better have another planet lined up to go to and rape and plunder - and MyWereld will be the first in the queue for a seat on that mother ship!!

      Derrick - 2011-09-25 09:38

      @MyWerld: The USA already spends quite a few millions feeding straving children, yet the corrupt goverments steal it to drive in there big Merc's and stuff. U barking up the wrong tree.

  • Johann - 2011-09-23 06:24

    Constellation? More like Consternation. I feel the US is right to look to private space (NewSpace) for answers. It is the best way to get the most economical space program. Look at ex-pat Elon Musk's SpaceX. That's the way to do it!

  • PrefabSprout - 2011-09-23 07:30

    The Americans were the champions of the space race, but their star is now waning (pun intended). Obviously this will open doors to other nations to get ahead, watch the Chinese..... On a lighter note though maybe our own taxi association should get involved, they have now branched out into the airline and shipping industries, who knows, maybe space is their next frontier.

      Oxygen - 2011-09-23 08:12


      Wade Mackintosh - 2011-09-23 10:06

      ANCYL: we will land and explore the sun! U.S: Um you cant it is too hot ANCYL: We are not dat stupid, we will go at night!

      OBZERVER - 2011-09-23 10:35

      Yeh get the taxi association involved hehehehe. There will be cheap tickets, massive explosions, space congestion.... I LOVE IT Finally something interesting in the news. 320 people were killed today in the biggest space accident in human history. A South African Space Taxi (designed for 15 people) carrying 300 South African Royalties, crashed into the ISS. The Russian Cosmonauts commented that there was no Identifying marks on the Taxi and was leaking gasses and fuel before impact. According to investigations it is amazing that they managed to get into space in the first place. The South African Space Taxi Agency is outraged because it was inspected before departure and according to bribed officials it was in mint condition.... This comment will probably be removed in about 10 seconds so read quickly hahahaha.

      jmsteenkamp - 2011-09-26 16:22

      @OBZERVER: lol!!!! Jip, agree with you! ;)

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