Neil Armstrong, 81, is a pioneer, hero, astronaut, and the first human to set foot upon another world.
He’s also disgusted.
The man with the “right stuff” has had it with the direction America is going in space and he wants the world to know just how pitiful he believes the US space program and NASA have become.
Lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable
Speaking to Washington legislators in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Armstrong stressed that the abandonment of the space shuttle program without a ready replacement is an “embarrassing” predicament for both manned space travel and US prestige.
His words recorded for posterity into the historic Congressional record, Armstrong said bitterly, “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. 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.”
Worry about America’s future
Most other astronauts agree and many space experts and far-thinking economists worry about America’s future. The 21st Century will be space driven in a quest for resources and expansion. After playing the role of the hare, America is now allowing the turtles—like China—to catch up.
The situation is particularly worrisome to those Americans responsible for the national security interest. Waking up one morning to find that Russia or China have a military base on the Moon does not auger well for the future security of the country or its citizens.
NASA had pinned its hopes on a new class of spaceship: the Constellation. Although workable, critics charged NASA had lost its imagination and the newly touted spacecraft was little more than “Apollo on steroids.”
New systems ‘years away’
Although many former astronauts also were critical of the Constellation concept, they were devastated by President Obama’s decision to cancel the program outright and instead rely on commercial ventures in the future that are underfunded and years away.
With the cancellation of the shuttle program, no Americans have the means to reach space for the first time in almost 40 years.
The fall back—to rely on Russian rocket transport Soyuz—has now been placed into doubt as their new rocket may have serious engineering flaws.
The Russian Federation and the United States were counting on the rocket to carry humans and materials to the International Space Station (ISS). With the rocket’s reliability in doubt, both country’s space agencies warned of the possibility the 100 billion dollar ISS could be lost.
Such a situation is untenable to many Americans, especially astronauts.
Call to return shuttles to service
Astronaut Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, and the last human to walk on the Moon, urged Congress to place the existing shuttles back into service before being mothballed in air and space museums. He argued the equipment still works and they’re needed to back up the Russian rockets. The alternative is possibly losing the ISS altogether.
Many people around the world are beginning to think America has lost its vision and its guts. Not long ago the US intended to go to the Moon and then beyond to Mars.
Now, some astronauts are openly complaining about NASA’s new “mission to nowhere.”
They know—as do many others—that once a nation takes it’s eyes from the stars, often the gutter awaits.