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Neil Armstrong Criticizes Obama's Space Strategy 508

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ok-you-can-cut-in-line dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Former astronaut Neil Armstrong has issued a strongly worded rebuke of President Barack Obama, criticizing the president for proposed revisions to the US space program. Armstrong, along with astronauts James Lovell and Eugene Cernan, called the proposal 'devastating' in a letter obtained by NBC News."
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Neil Armstrong Criticizes Obama's Space Strategy

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  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @10:57AM (#31845056) Homepage

    We've got jobless benefits to extend!

  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:05AM (#31845162)
    The Shuttle basically is a jobs program (for Florida, mainly). But it's an awfully expensive one. Redirecting the funds to more efficient unmanned and private industry programs will accomplish more with the same money.
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:06AM (#31845166) Journal

    I don't think that, given all the other issues facing the country, putting together a space station or another manned mission are really priorities.

    When will it be a priority? When China lands on Mars? When the EU, China or Russia colonize the Moon? When we detect an incoming asteroid?

    This is shortsighted policy at it's finest. How much additional funding did NASA require to make Constellation viable? As I recall it was only a few billion. We spend hundreds of billions to force people into a broken health insurance market, hundreds of billions bailing out companies that deserved to fail and hundreds of billions invading countries that never attacked us. We can't find a few billion to keep a manned space program? Pathetic.

    The dinosaurs died out because they didn't have a space program.....

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:07AM (#31845180) Journal

    ...but manned space flight really hasn't done much for us.

    You realize the computer you typed that message on was built using parts originally designed for the manned space program, right?

  • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:08AM (#31845194)
    I'm not sure why clout should matter. Evaluate the arguments on their merits where possible. I am a fairly strong Obama supporter on most issues (I wish he'd be a bit more assertive on gay rights and financial regulation, but given I'm straight and work for a hedge fund, the feeling doesn't have the weight of self interest behind it), but the sole point of complete disagreement is his vision, or lack thereof, for NASA. I've heard the arguments that the "new" NASA will somehow develop all the necessary interplanetary exploration technologies instead of wasting money returning to the moon, but I'm skeptical that we'll develop useful technology without a direct mission requirement that it satisfies. It just seems like yet another step in the long, slow decline of our space program since the Challenger accident.
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:08AM (#31845200) Journal

    So the space program not only killed seven people, but needlessly killed seven people.

    If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires, both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:09AM (#31845208)
    So the new compromise is "half a spaceship"- one that can land, but not launch. Only a politician could invent that one. NASA programs have horizons of 10 -2 5 years, but politicians respond to two year election cycles. Bush cancels shuttle. Obama cancels is successor. Obama need better science advice.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:10AM (#31845226)

    The WSJ has something to say about that very thing today: []

    This is why I cannot get on board with the Democrats. Their "good intentions" are seriously misguided, and in fact fly in the face of all modern economic research. We now have unemployment benefits extended up to 2 years - 2 YEARS!!! Talk about an incentive to not work! Meanwhile, the Republicans are cast as heartless because they want to force Congressional Democrats to follow their own PayGo legislation! I would hardly call expecting someone to find a job doing SOMETHING in under 2 years' time "being heartless." It may not be your dream job, but if you live in America then you still won the Ovarian Lottery as Warren Buffet would say.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:11AM (#31845234)

    Hopefully, that litmus test won't be applied. While I do have the utmost respect for Armstrong, Lovell and Cernan as people with brass balls the size of a Volkswagen bus, they are not accountants or business people. The number one financial rule in any project is: don't throw good money after bad money. It's gone. Don't make it worse. And from what I understand from the Constellation project, it was just not going to fly - not without pouring enough money and time into it to start from scratch. As a result, it makes sense to scratch it, even if this means short-term pain. What I'm hoping for is that the knowledge that we don't have a complete system for putting people and cargo into orbit spurs people into creating that system.

    I really hope that the scratching of the Constellation project frees up the resources to create a real lifting program - or at least frees up resources to provide technical assistance to commercial ventures trying to do the same.

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:11AM (#31845242) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, go to hell victims of reckless real estate speculation, those aerospace contractors deserve that government cheese!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:12AM (#31845246)

    You realize the rockets used were based on Nazi technology to deliver payloads? You realize the computer used for the manned space program was based on the cryptographic requirements to decode the Enigma machines in WWII? Therefore, to enhance technology we can conclude the world needs to be perpetually at war. Isn't this exactly what's already happening?

  • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:14AM (#31845278)
    For the record, I don't think Constellation was such a great idea either, but at least it provided a goal. I just wish a president would have the courage to call for enough of a NASA budget to not only go to another planet/moon for visit, but to set up a permanent presence. It's not even the whole extinction worry some people seem to have, I just feel that our pioneering drive was responsible for some of the greatest advances, both cultural and economic, in our history (also some of the greatest atrocities, but we'll have to hope there aren't any natives this time around).
  • by assertation (1255714) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:16AM (#31845320)

    My opinion will probably get modded down, simply because someone on slashdot disagrees with it.

    I think giving up on manned space flight is a mistake. I think MORE money put into it will eventually bring new technologies and new technologies bring economic success as American CEOs love outsourcing the economic benefits of existing technology.

    That said, I really think people have lost a sense of gravity for where the country is right now.

    A year ago the world and the US was on the edge of falling into an economic depression. Unemployment is almost 10%, the worst it has been since the Regan years in 1981. There is no money, anywhere. Turn on the news any given day of the week and you will hear that.

    Now is not the time for more government spending.

    It would be like a person deciding to buy a new car (without a need) after getting fired and after having their savings account depleted by a health care expense.

  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:17AM (#31845326)

    How can we 'refine' what we no longer have?

    The Saturn V's gone. The shuttle is in it's waning years. Constellation is cancelled. We have no launch vehicle anymore.

    But it's ok, if we need someone shot into space, we'll just ask the Russians or Chinese. The Indians are getting close too. Apparently THEY still see reasons to maintain and develop space programs. What's our ruddy excuse?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:17AM (#31845330)

    ...that some of those living astronauts who are NOT political cronies of Obamarama looking for the next state funded handout finally made a statement, and a well "voiced" one at that.

    Bush may have cancelled the Space Shuttle, but at that time there was Constellation on track for the mid 2010s possibly earlier for some usable portions of it. Obamarama just has too many backroom deals and handouts to payoff his "supporters" with to be able to do anything meaningful.

    Anyways, there still might be a chance that the Air Force would fund something, as they still will need that LEO and more capability to fulfill there space defense function that they were alotted.

  • by scamper_22 (1073470) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:20AM (#31845356)

    It's not just that. It's also a question of getting something for your money.

    Government all around the world give unemployment or 'make work' projects. The one good thing about Asia is their make work projects tend to be productive. Japan creates lots of jobs as it builds infrastructure like rail and roads and bridges... Maybe it's a waste of money. But hey, at least when they're done creating jobs, they have something to show for it. Not just the physical results, but also the retained skill sets.

    Contrast that to just spending money on employment insurance, or making more BS government jobs with bureaucrats and lawyers and tax people.

    So yes, maybe the space program is a waste of money. But I'd rather have my tax money go to people working at NASA pushing the envelope of space and engineering, than have people paid to do nothing productive (unemployed, bureaucracy, lawyers...).

  • What? The Apollo mission has returned more money in Taxes then it costs because of the industries it created. Smoke detectors, plastics, computers, project management. and about 200 others.

  • Re:Intelligence (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:22AM (#31845384)

    You're right about cost but I think you're wrong about capabilities. We know more about the moon as a result of the Apollo program than we do as a result of all the unmanned missions combined. A few guys on Mars could do what the rovers have done in a couple of months. Human beings are much more adaptable than any robot that will could conceivably be made within the next 20 years, probably more like 50 years.

    What holds space flight back is the cost. Its simply too hard to get anything into orbit right now, let alone the extra weight of life support and supplies that human beings need. Not to mention that if we're ever going to have long range space flight we're going to need to start building ships big enough that they can be spun for gravity. The cost of launching that much material right now makes it impossible but there are, as I see it, two ways around the problem.

    One: New launch technologies. There have been technologies on the drawing board that would revolutionize space travel for decades, but nothing has gone anywhere because the funds for R&D have always been spent on current missions and incremental improvements to existing designs. Nuclear rockets have been possible for at least 30 years, but public fears have made them impossible. Non-rocket launch technologies aren't really feasible yet, maybe in 20 or 30 years but current materials are either inadequate or too close to trust in such an expensive and high profile endeavor.

    Two: Pull us up by our bootstraps. Launching a manned interplanetary ship from earth is too hard? Build it in orbit then. Mine the materials from NEO's, set up foundries and chemical refineries in orbit, process water and out of asteroids, and build orbital refueling stations. By the time the orbital infrastructure is set up, the materials for a space elevator will be there and it can be manufactured in orbit, eliminating the cost of launching the cable and allowing it to be manufactured as it is being deployed, saving time and money.

  • Re:Intelligence (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:22AM (#31845394) Homepage

    I was KIND OF with you until you said this:

    Furthermore I think it is Obama's goal to make the US weak because nobody hates a loser, but nobody respects one either.

    You honestly believe that Obama is actively working towards making the United States weaker? Put down the Tea Party(TM) brand leaves, and try to have a single rational thought.


  • by BearRanger (945122) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:23AM (#31845400)
    War in Iraq or return to the moon? You had the choice and you chose poorly. Don't pretend that this is just the new guy's problem or that spending money on health care is the issue. If America is broke (and it is, as well as being broken) you have to be more circumspect about where you spend your limited funds. Constellation failed on the last guy's watch because the vision for creating it and the funds for building it were limited from the outset. See here: []
  • by Third Position (1725934) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:24AM (#31845410)

    Actually, Armstrong is notorious for shutting up. He's a very private person and generally avoids the limelight. That's what makes his statement so surprising - he's usually gone out of his way to stay out of the political infighting.

    If he's opening his mouth now, Obama's proposal must have rubbed him the wrong way in a really, really big way. When was the last time you heard a public statement from Neil Armstrong?

  • Re:Intelligence (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:25AM (#31845426) Journal
    Because it's far more expensive. Robots can't be programmed to react to strange things. So 1 in 5 shuttles blows up and kills 2 people; versus 5 in 5 shuttles blowing up and costing a trillion and a half dollars each. The research grinds to a halt, and because we fail on a technological level at something, some threat later becomes insurmountable, and hundreds of millions of people die. Oops.
  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:26AM (#31845430)

    The US space program has killed 14 people within spacecraft, 3 more in a test craft.

    Countless test pilots have been killed in experimental aircraft.

    These people know the situations they're put in, and to die on the job like they did, and to call it needless, grossly insults their memory. These people put their lives on the line for the betterment of science and humanity and I highly doubt any of them would want it any other way.

  • Landing on the moon did an AMAZING amount to boost the morale of the country, cause people to dream, push themselves, open their minds to possibilities, etc. If it weren't for landing on the moon, the country (and thus the world) would be decades behind where we currently are.

    I'd go so far as to say if we, or hell..anyone else, for that matter...could even just land on the moon again...the same thing would happen. Did it provide immediate benefits that justified the cost? No. What it did instead was inspire not three generations of people to dream, to reach for the stars, to explore, to innovate...

  • Re:Intelligence (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LingNoi (1066278) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:27AM (#31845438)

    Lets see how much cheaper his plan is once Russia jacks up their prices for getting into LEO and the US has no alternative. Once you disband these programs you can't decide later on to just start them back up. If Obama's plans fail then the US will have to invest huge sums of money to get back to where NASA currently is.

  • by Ace23 (798035) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:27AM (#31845440)
    This country is, after the "Republican Revolution" has had its time to work its devastation, in a severe economic depression. The USA had its chance forty years ago, and decided it preferred to get sneakers with lights on them. The US culture has spent decades painting intelligent people as "nerds" while extolling the virtues of being a dumb jock or bubbleheaded bimbo. Meanwhile, other countries have valued education and have left the USA in the dust. The USA is now a third world country, except for the military. What does it make anymore? Bombs. The country doesn't DESERVE to go into space. It probably won't even survive the next five years.
  • NASA FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:27AM (#31845442) Homepage

    Given that almost everything in the technology industry came directly or indirectly as a result of NASA and the space program, it's value is obvious. Most of us who read Slashdot owe the effort that went into the Apollo program for our jobs. The microprocessor, for example, was invented by Intel FOR the space program.

    That's NASA FUD. Microprocessors were not invented for the space program. Apollo and the Shuttle both predate Intel, and both had non-integrated CPUs. Microprocessors were invented to make it cheaper to build desktop calculators. [] The USAF had a major role in developing lightweight and reliable electronics, computers and missile guidance, but that's not NASA.

    The space program did not create Teflon. Or Velcro. Or even Tang.

    NASA's biggest contribution to commercial technology was probably NASTRAN, the finite element analysis program.

  • yes..however NASA spent a shit ton load of money on companies tasked with developing systems for the Apollo.
    The manufacturing techniques, systems design, and fab development we now use was all created to meet NASA's needs.
    Think about that. Because of a large push from NASA, the computer industry was born. N private industry was seriously persuing making smaller faster computers. The few in the industry where still thinking large lumbering machines that would be usde by a few of the largest companies.

    The computer industry is just one industry that got serious legs under it because of NASA.

    Now think how much tax revenues is generated from just the computer industry. It that light the Apollo missions where some of the best investments ever made.

    Ironically, that development is what made sending robots to other planets possible.

    Frankly, I hate the Robots V. man debate. It should be Manned and robotic.

    We need to be doing work that sets the foundation for interstellar missions.

  • by jav1231 (539129) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:35AM (#31845530)
    It would be far better spent on NASA than on bailing out banks and GM. Now we have no more jobs than before AND we're in deeper debt than ever in our history. I'm well aware this started under Bush, BTW. The bailout was essentially his idea. Obama took it to a new level, both were wrong. You can't justify Obama based on Bush. Wrong is wrong inherently and it's consequences could give a rat's about who you voted for.
  • by _14k4 (5085) <sullivan.t@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:36AM (#31845544)

    yeah, go to hell those who agreed into loans they know they couldn't afford if their "gamble" didn't pay off. /me signs for loans he knows he can afford on a "worst case" scenario. (Yes, worst case for me means working at stop and shop, walmart, and mcdonalds. I'm not mexican, just ok with working "below" where my education has taken me.)

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:39AM (#31845554) Journal

    It seems silly to think we wouldn't benefit from some other country's space program

    So, their space program is going to employ American citizens, whom spend their wages in American communities and generate tax revenue for American Government? They will let their space program benefit our military, in the form of communications and recon capabilities? They will share all technologies developed for their space program without charging us for them?

    so why not let them foot the research bill while we work on coming up with a sensible financial strategy

    The 2009 Federal Budget [] included $3,100,000,000,000 of spending. NASA's 2009 fiscal year budget [] was $17,614,200,000. That amounts to 0.5682% of Federal spending. In reality it's considerably less than that, when you account for appropriations that weren't part of the budget (war spending, bailouts, stimulus, etc.)

    I repeat my statement from another thread: Gutting the manned space program to save money is shortsighted and idiotic policy. NASA is not the reason that Federal red ink is spiraling out of control.

  • by Jawn98685 (687784) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:40AM (#31845580)
    "the private sector" isn't good enough. Only lavishly expensive government programs are good enough. Fucking hypocrites.
  • by Third Position (1725934) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:41AM (#31845596)

    Actually, if you're a space geek, the military taking over the space program is the best news you could wish for. Just take a look at who gets a budget. To the DOD, NASA's budget is a rounding error. If you actually want to see this stuff get funded, the Air Force is the best place for it.

  • by dtml-try MyNick (453562) <litheran@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:47AM (#31845664)

    Excellent point.

    Instead of spending money on research, science and exploration spend it on war. Much better fatality rate.

  • by hughferriss (1790084) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:47AM (#31845666)
    You're right -- it is a question of getting something for your money, which is precisely why Constellation was canceled. That program was so over budget and behind schedule that the LEO vehicle wouldn't have been ready to fly until after the space station had been deorbited. To use your make-work analogy, wouldn't it be better to build a bridge to somewhere instead of to nowhere? I'd rather have my NASA dollars spent on credible heavy-lift and real manned deep-space exploration programs (both part of the new plan), rather than on an already-failing attempt to recapitulate the Apollo program.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:50AM (#31845706)


    The correct answer is millions.

    And it won't help to go to the stars. All the stars are dying. The universe ends, probably not with a bang but with a whimper. There is no immortality, there is no escape, there is no cosmic fireball engine to ride into the next universe and the next.

    But take comfort, even one million years is far longer than our species has existed. Our civilisation and its cares will be doing well to survive just 1000 more years let alone a million.

  • "This will diminish America's technological superiority and our lead in spaceflight."
    That's pretty stupid. Let me guess: You ahven't rad the proposed changes, and don't even understand what he wants cut?

    Fucking idiot.

    The constellation program was going poorly. The previous administration kept micromanaging it and demands result based on a complete unrealistic and made up timeline. Plus the results they wanted kept changing.
    SO the contellation program had ended up with bugs and delays.
    Thbis is not opinion, it's fact.

    He doesn't want ti stiop manned flight; he wants it done properly.

    "He has shown nothing but contempt for our allies"
    Then why are all are allies praising him? why is are foreign relations doing better now then in the last 10 years?
    Stop letting Fox news think for you.

    "constantly bows (literally) to our enemies."
    oh dear lord. Yeah, lets completely ignore other peoples social norms when trying to do foreign relations~

    "Given that almost everything in the technology industry came directly or indirectly as a result of NASA and the space program, it's value is obvious"
    which is why we wants to increase NASAs budget... dick head.

    "The microprocessor, for example, was invented by Intel FOR the space program."
    yes, and nw better robotics are being developed for the space mission. your point?

    "A full blown effort to return to the moon, to stay there permanently, and to push on to Mars would greatly benefit not only the United States but the world
    true, but to do it we will need robotics to help us. Why not send robots to build the basic structures before we get there? use robots to gather material? land supplies before men arrive. Use robots to gather basic soil samples and do analyses in the field. Put mankind there to do science and develop new technologies that will be needed to go to Mars, and then to planets around other stars?

    "(and hopefully only"
    your predjudice is showing, and it explains you're incorrect information and logical fallacies.

    "With the cancellation of Constellation, we will be retiring the shuttle by next year, WITHOUT A REPLACEMENT EVEN ON THE DRAWING BOARD!"
    SO you are saying we should keep putting money into a failing program just ebcase nothing else is 'on the drawing board"? really? talk about fiscal irresponsibility. BTW, there are several other programs 'on the drawing board' Once again, your irrational views of the president are causing you to make logical flaws.

    "And to those who say "cancel the space program, we have hungry people here on Earth""
    I dont' say that, and I am well aware of the benefits of space mission RnD. You seem to think there will be no benefit to mankind from developing robotic missions. Why?

    Please read on what and why he want's to make changes. We can have a discussion on those merits without you bringing in you incorrect assumption about Obama.

    You and people like you are starting to look ridiculous. You blame everything on Obama. You don't even discuss the pros or cons of what he suggests you simple take the 'Obama wants it therefor I'm against it and I don't need to bother to think a our it at all approach." You are better then that.

  • by dlapine (131282) <[dlapine] [at] []> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:52AM (#31845742) Homepage

    The Constellation program was supposed to re-use as many of the space shuttle components to design and build launch system to get us back to the moon. The Program of record was severely flawed in several ways-

    1. $20 billion already spent since 2005 with just 1 test flight (and nothing flew on that test that would have flown operationally)
    2. $3 billion a year for the next 8 years for more development before the system was ready for a moon shot
    3. 2 separate launch vehicles, with completely different stages, engines and boosters, none of which came directly from the Space Shuttle.
    4. The Ares 1 didn't have the lift capability to loft the Orion, and the Orion had to lose capability in an attempt to make it lighter
    5. The Ares 5 was so heavy and big, that all of the launch equipment (lauch towers, crawlers, VAB, etc) had to be rebuilt, costing billions
    6. Most damning was that serious safety issues exist with the crew launch vehicle ARES 1 (dead zones, Thrust Oscillation) which haven't been solved

    I'm all for going back to the moon and the US creating a Heavy lift Space program under NASA's guidance. But Constellation is not the right program.

    I'd be all for something along the lines of DIRECT heavy lift system [] to continue the US presence in manned space flight.

  • Actually... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by garyisabusyguy (732330) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:55AM (#31845788)

    However great a pilot Armstrong has been (literally superhuman when you consider various 'accidents' during early tests of docking in Earth orbit), he sat on the board of Morton-Thiokol (supplier of solid rocket boosters for shuttle missions) for over a decade, until retirement.

    Morton-Thiokol is HEAVILY invested in current technology supporting both the shuttle and Ares/Constellation.

    I see Armstrong's support for the Ares/Constellation plan as more support for his employer, than for the space program.

    It is time to quit lining the pockets of contractors to keep building 1970's technology for the space program and develop some game-changing technology for getting material into orbit. As it is, we are sooooo engrossed with 1970's tech (like returning to the moon???) that we will never send men to the Asteroid Belt in my lifetime.

    After all, that IS NASA's game, isn't it?

  • because if I start doing research on something today, that means I'll have new product tomorrow! Woooot!

  • by XB-70 (812342) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:58AM (#31845842)
    After reading many accounts of former astronauts and others involved in the space program, to go to the moon without computers automatically monitoring the spacecraft was not only foolish, it was complete and utter folly. Gene Cernan states emphatically that he, and many others, came close to perishing a number of times during the program.

    If we want to explore the moon and other places, let do it sensibly: we should be sending robotic 'crews' up to explore, stake out and set up living quarters for humans who would follow. It would achieve two things: make the whole process so much safer and really move robotic science forward significantly. The resultant benefist for humanity back on earth would be of a similar scale to those of the space programs of the 60's.

    As to Neil Armstrong, he himself was nearly killed by a simulator that ran out of attitude fuel. A computerized system would have noticed the problem immediately and averted disaster.

  • Re:They're right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by careysub (976506) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:58AM (#31845854)

    Manned space flight isn't about being "cost effective", "high priority", or "a good return on investment" (yes, I've heard all of these terms used in regards to spaceflight). It's about exploration, curiosity, and wonder. I challenge you to tell someone who was around on July 20, 1969 that manned spaceflight is pointless.

    Challenge accepted! I was born just days after Sputnik was launched, and grew up as a space junkie, following every step of the space race, and watching the Moon landing live.

    It was many things: a stunning technical achievement (we went to the Moon just as soon as it was technically possible to do so), a stunning geo-political achievement (showing - as it was intended to - the advantage U.S. society had over Soviet society, in a non-destructive manner), and one of the most important symbolic events in the history of the human race.

    But it was a colossal scientific failure. Nothing was learned that would not have been learned at a fraction of the cost using unmanned vehicles. Even the "spin off" argument fails to recognize that a focused technology development program could have accomplished similar things far more cheaply.

    And today, "return to the moon" lacks all of the favorable features of the Apollo program - it won't be a stunning technical achievement, or an impressive geo-political or symbolic one. It will just be another colossally expensive scientific failure, compared to what could be achieved with similar money on space probes.

    It's about doing something simply to show that it can be done, like the explorers of centuries past. I suppose some people find that concept unimportant or even boring. I would say that those people are unimportant and boring.

    But is has already been done. An actual viable plan to get to Mars would be a new exploration, but no one has ever been willing to put up the cash for that.

    Did space exploration, and discovery end with Apollo? Hardly! Essentially all exploration and discovery has been due to unmanned probes and observatories, manned flight has returned essentially nothing along these lines. The one contribution it has made - fixing the Hubble - could have been finessed more cheaply and effectively simply by building and launching more Hubbles.

    So yes, the symbolic value of manned space flight is past (unless genuine new goals are set and adequately funded) and the Shuttle and ISS operations have been a pointless waste of money. Expendable unmanned launchers and vehicles would have gotten us farther, faster and cheaper.

  • What Victims? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:59AM (#31845866)

    Victim? I think the word you wanted here was "participant." Saying that people were victims of bad loans is like sayig I'm a victim of McDonalds because I bought fries there. "Oh, but McDonalds didn't give you the details about the fries." Bullshit. If someone had told me I could eat the fries and not get fat it would be my own fault for believing something so monumentally stupid. Read the loan. Understand the loan. Make sure you can and will be able to pay for the loan. Sign the loan. It's not rocket science.

  • Re:They're right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Laur (673497) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:02PM (#31845916)

    It's about doing something simply to show that it can be done, like the explorers of centuries past.

    Most exploration in centuries past was primarily motivated by monetary gain (new trade routes, new sources of natural resources, etc). Just sayin'...

  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:05PM (#31845958)

    We're not going to the moon to go to the moon; we're going to the moon in preparation for Mars. The problem it's being posed more as the former than the latter. I mean, if we can't even get to the moon, what chance do we have for Mars?

    I'm not saying he's wrong, I just don't know the full context of his remarks.

  • by FoolishOwl (1698506) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:07PM (#31845984) Journal

    The Apollo mission didn't create those industries. There was some technology developed in the course of the Apollo project that had broader applications. But, computers were already being developed, plastics were already being developed.

    If you want to develop useful new technologies, wouldn't it make more sense to invest directly in research and development, rather than investing in a giant publicity stunt in the hopes that there might be some useful spin-offs?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:07PM (#31845988)

    So yes, maybe the space program is a waste of money. But I'd rather have my tax money go to people working at NASA pushing the envelope of space and engineering, than have people paid to do nothing productive (unemployed, bureaucracy, lawyers...).

    I agree that NASA, like DARPA, is about taking on the big problems. Paying really smart people to push the boundaries of what was possible. Constellation, though, was about paying huge amounts to giant government contractors who've been doing this stuff for generations, and see no reason to change. Is any of this breakthrough technology? How hard is it to get to LEO?

    Do you really want to give big bucks to Boeing to keep screwing up a giant hack like Ares ("Gee, it vibrates so much it'd kill the crew? Why don't we put in some big springs?") or do you want to give money to lean and mean engineers and entrepreneurs like Space-X and Scaled Composites? We need to get some new eyes on the problems to get some innovative solutions!

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:08PM (#31846006) Journal

    So where are all those "less government" types today?

    Just cut taxes. That'll pay for it.

    Actually, the latest round of tax cutting actually raised government revenue. So when you say, "Just cut taxes. That'll pay for it.", you're actually very close to the truth.

    As for the "less government" part, the people you are targeting do not necessarily believe in "less government". What they really mean is "less federal government interference in our lives". See, most Libertarians and Conservatives are not anti-government, they are pro-Constitution. You can't read the Constitution without reading the 10th Amendment, which states that any powers that are not specifically spelled out in the Constitution to be federal powers are reserved for the states. So if the good people in your state want to live in a nanny state, they may. If the people in my state value freedom over the security of a safety net, they may have that too. If you live in my state, you are free to move to a state that provides the Big Brother style of government that you desire. For example, if you want government run health care your state won't offer it, move to Massachusetts. That way, you can live where you get your health care and pay for it and I can live where I have to provide my own health care and pay for it. We both get to choose how we live. Isn't that what freedom is all about?

    Where does NASA come in? NASA is used extensively by the military, and should therefor receive federal government funding. The GPS system is a fine example. Also, the federal government has the power to enter treaties with other countries, like to build and maintain a space station. So much of the federal funding for NASA is Constitutional and not a problem with the "less government types" you asked about.

  • They are wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Necron69 (35644) <jscott.farrow@gmai l . com> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:11PM (#31846050)

    With all due respect to those great men, and their accomplishments, they are wrong.

    First of all, everyone take a deep breath, pull up Google, and remember that the space shuttle program was cancelled SIX YEARS AGO by BUSH. That is not a decision by the Obama administration.

    Second, the Constellation program was already years behind schedule, billions overbudget, and would still have resulted in years of us paying the Russians for a ride to the ISS, if they could have even worked out the problems and gotten a system flying. There can be no doubt whatsoever that Constellation would have resulted in a massively overpriced, low flight-rate system that was no better than the shuttle it replaced.

    By giving private industry more incentives to proceed with their plans for commercial spacecraft (which NASA was previously competing with and blocking investment in), the Obama administration has made it vastly MORE likely that we will return to the Moon and space in general. This time, we will have a business reason to STAY THERE, instead of just going sightseeing.

    I am overall not a fan of the Obama administration, but on this one thing, they have absolutely nailed it. This decision is good for the space industry, good for America, and good for the future of mankind.


  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:29PM (#31846322)
    Repeat after me, that was then, this is now.

    Too much of this debate is focusing on whether the manned flight investments of the past were worthwhile. As if redirecting our efforts now would denigrate what Armstrong represented in the 60's. But that's not the question. The question is, given the initiatives now on the table for the future, both manned and unmanned, both in private industry and government, which are most promising and deserving of funding going forward? What is the mission compelling us to put so much of our limited S&T dollars into manned space flight going forward? There is none.

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:30PM (#31846348) Homepage Journal

    The post I replied to referred to unemployment benefits, made necessary because the economy tanked after the real estate bubble popped.

    That you and several others assume I'm talking about bailing out stupid people with ARMs (when a slightly more logical misunderstanding would be to assume I was talking about the bank bailouts) says volumes about how your resentment is being misdirected on the poor for political ends.

  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:39PM (#31846438) Homepage
    Neil Armstrong was on the Corporate Board of Thiokol, which became ATK Launch Systems Group. ATK Launch Systems Group was contracted to provide the solid fueled booster for Constellation. With its cancellation, ATK Launch Systems Group is losing value. Now ask yourself, how many shares of ATK Launch Systems Group does Neil Armstrong own from his time on the board? Somehow, I don't think Neil will be coming forth with the answer.
  • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:46PM (#31846532)
    Here's some context from TFA the GP posted:

    For the past six years America's civil space program has been aimed at returning astronauts to the Moon by 2020. That's the plan announced by President George W. Bush in January of 2004. That plan also called for developing the technologies that would support human expeditions to Mars, our ultimate destination in space. But two things happened along the way since that announcement, which became known as the Vision for Space Exploration.

    First, the President failed to fully fund the program, as he had initially promised. As a result, each year the development of the rockets and spacecraft called for in the plan slipped further and further behind. Second and most importantly, NASA virtually eliminated the technology development effort for advanced space systems. Equally as bad, NASA also raided the Earth and space science budgets in the struggle to keep the program, named Project Constellation, on track. Even that effort fell short.

    To keep the focus on the return to the Moon, NASA pretty much abandoned all hope of preparing for Mars exploration. It looked like building bases on the Moon would consume all of NASA's resources. Yet despite much complaining, neither a Republican-controlled nor a Democratic-controlled Congress was willing or able to add back those missing and needed funds. The date of the so-called return to the Moon slipped from 2020 to heaven-knows when. At the same time, there was no money to either extend the life of the Space Shuttle, due to be retired this year, or that of the International Space Station, due to be dropped into the Pacific Ocean in 2015, a scant handful of years after it was completed.

    So, it's no surprise that Bush failed to fund the program fully, since he put our society 1 trillion dollars [] in the hole due to the war in Iraq. Now, NASA is cannibalizing all its other programs in order to save the one effort, the moon, and the larger goal of going to mars has been largely forgotten. What Obama did was right.

    (Sure, go ahead and mod me down, but you can't escape the fact that Obama is facing a reality where the budget needs to be cut to bring the deficit under control, whereas the past administration and congress continually lived in fantasyland believing that they could spend whatever they wanted.)

  • by epee1221 (873140) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:49PM (#31846568)
    So should I tell all my classmates that the reason they can't find jobs when they graduate is that they bought houses they couldn't afford?
  • by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:50PM (#31846572) Journal

    War in Iraq or return to the moon?

    As opposed to "War in Vietnam or be first to go to the moon?" the first time around...

  • Re:Actually... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by smashin234 (555465) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:53PM (#31846602) Journal

    Ares/Constellation was attempting to create a new 'modern' rocket versus 1970's technology. You can't simply take new technology, strap it together with a rocket and watch it fly to space and back. This takes time and money. The fact that Neil Armstrong rarely speaks out should say more about what he thinks then anything else. Maybe he does have some support for his employer, but that is besides the point when he very rarely speaks out.

    Rocket science is difficult for a reason....and the reason we won't get to the asteroid belt in our lifetimes is because we have politicians who are not visionary and can only think up to 3 months in the future. We do not have a JFK in office to make goals and follow through on them. Say what you want about our current president and previous presidents, none of them has invested what is required to have NASA seriously content to explore like it is intended.

    I am not arguing that commercial is not the way to go...its just that any commercial venture will have the same issues with rockets that NASA does. Until we have the technology to escape the gravity well of Earth reliably, space flight is an expensive luxury at best...and more then likely we will end up sinking just as much money in some commercial company as we would into NASA.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:59PM (#31846674)

    yeah, go to hell those who agreed into loans they know they couldn't afford if their "gamble" didn't pay off. /me signs for loans he knows he can afford on a "worst case" scenario. (Yes, worst case for me means working at stop and shop, walmart, and mcdonalds. I'm not mexican, just ok with working "below" where my education has taken me.)

    Why the hell is this modded troll? Nobody forced people into accepting loans that were ludicrous at first glance. Yes, I do blame a complete lack of financial literacy of the average population as being a significant portion of the current banking crisis. Yes, you who makes 60K a year cannot afford a 600K house. Ever. Even if the payment you sign up for initially is $50 a month. If you do apply for that loan, you are just as retarded as the person who gives you that loan.

  • by darkmeridian (119044) <william.chuang @ g m a> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:13PM (#31846870) Homepage

    Can someone mod parent down because he started it off with "my opinion will probably get modded down..."? I hate it when people do that.

  • by ffreeloader (1105115) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:16PM (#31846914) Journal

    Let's see. You have a PHD and you don't have a chance of understanding that an ARM mortgage will bite you in the ass financially when interest rates rise, if you're left to your own devices. I have a high school education plus 2 years of technical school, and I call recognizing what an ARM can do to you "obvious" as it's common sense.

    No wonder people with your level of education are often referred to as "educated idiots". I'll bet you're a liberal or progressive and think debt can do our country no real economic harm, and that the government can spend us out of a depression too.

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:16PM (#31846920)

    It's 'amazing' how athletic healthy people carrying M-16's and sticking together in large groups 'never' get picked out by rapists.
          When people getting paid 360 K a year are giving people who get paid 50 K (or less) economic advice, is it any wonder the poorer people believe it uncritically? The people who showed some caution were encouraged to abandon it. Only the ones who were both really well informed and generally suspicious sorts failed to fall for the line. What those uninformed people were uninformed about included that most of the regulations protecting them were no longer in place. Would you get a second opinion for a doctor's visit? Maybe. Would you get a third, and a fourth, and check each doctor's entire practice history, school grades, and every credential you see on his wall?
          As one of my co-workers pointed out, Predatory Lending aimed at the poorest includes interest rates above 36%. Just one person who takes out a loan they can't pay at 36% undoes the good 18 more responsible people do by saving, if the average savings account is only paying 2%. You can extend this to housing. People with the level of income to realistically become home owners can probably get 2.75 to 3.5% by using CDs and similar instruments, so it's not as bad as the case of poorer people with only small savings possible, but still... When an adjustable rate mortgage hits 15% (as some did), one person's bad decision outweighs four or five good decisions in terms of overall economic effects.
          You're not demanding that the average person become better informed, you are demanding that the bottom 10 to 20% of the demographic stop making the mistakes the rest of us are now paying for. Do I really need to show you why that's not going to happen? Meanwhile, some of us are demanding the rules be changed so the system can't make record profits from targeting the stupidest (or at least the least informed). We're blaming the people who cooked the rulebooks as much more guilty than the people at the bottom. There's always someone dumb enough to buy the Brooklyn Bridge - you will never eliminate the last potential sucker. We can still create proper rules against the guy trying to sell them the bridge, and enforce them.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:20PM (#31846978)

    Armstrong is also an engineer and served on the Challenger shuttle accident investigation board. Up till now he has stayed clear of politics and has been on the board of directors of many companies so yes he is also a business person.

    Lynn Swann, Nancy Reagan, Michael Jordan, and Lance Armstrong are or have been on the board of directors for various companies completely unrelated to their core competencies. Look up the concept of the celebrity director on a board. Not to say that Neil Armstrong is necessarily bad, but it also doesn't mean he's any good.
    Jim Lovell might have a business degree, but quite frankly, I'd need to know more before ascribing him business savvy.

    Frankly these man have nothing to gain at this time. They have all done what a very select few people have done. They are all pretty much set for the rest of their lives so they don't need any more money. To dismiss them I think is the height of arrogance.

    Conversely, to respect them in matters in which they have no experience is the height of hero worship. The fact that I'm questioning their ability to properly assess a business decision has no impact on their past achievements - I'm sure we can agree on that. We can listen to them, sure. But their arguments have to stand on their own merit. And from what I understand of the Constellation program, it was a financial disaster and an engineering nightmare. If these astronauts want to disagree, I'm all ears. But they better say something more convincing than "You're wrong".

    And to make matter worse President Obama isn't saving money by killing the Ares he is changing it from a program with at some goals to a welfare program!

    The Constellation program was already a welfare program. Or did you miss the argument with which Mark Udall (senator from Colorado) and Nelson (senator from Florida) want to preserve the Constellation program? That's right, jobs. The only question is whether the new program actually has a chance to produce something useful without sucking up about 20% of NASA's budget.

    So to all those that willing to dismiss these three well educated, extremely brillant, and wise men I just want you to think about it long and hard.

    Again, hero worship. Well educated depends on more than a degree, general brilliance is not necessary to pilot a craft and strapping yourself to an exploding bomb to go somewhere where no one has gone before "just because" would certainly seem the exact opposite of wisdom. Could they still be all three things? Sure. But being a commander on a lunar mission does not necessarily mean any of them.

  • by Pentium100 (1240090) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:35PM (#31847186)

    Well, maybe if he hadn't invented Freon, the refrigerators could have continued to use SO2, so, maybe more people would have died because of leaking fridges, but hey, the precious ozone layer would be saved.

    It's great when you already know that Freon causes damage to Ozone or the danger of tetra-ethyl lead, but at the time they were the best solutions to the problems.

    Do you also wish that coal powered steam engine was never invented, so we could just use nuclear power instead of pumping so much CO2 to the atmosphere in all those years when coal was the primary or even the only fuel for trains, factories etc.


    Humans living today have some 600 or so times more lead in their systems than those who lived before the use of tetra-ethyl lead as an additive in gasoline.

    And... what problems does the higher lead concentration do? At least it does not seem to be fatal...

  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:41PM (#31848038)

    So, here's something. Every financial advisor I've talked to said that any sort of fancy adjustable rate mortgage is/was a horrible idea. So did most of the articles I read online. The only people saying that it's a great idea? The people selling them.

    Stop comparing mortgage brokers to doctors and start comparing them to used car salesmen, which is a much more similar career path. Should we still be expecting people to take their advice uncritically?

  • by AshtangiMan (684031) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:44PM (#31848072)
    I would be tempted to mod you up because of the basic truth. But remember, while Bush was pushing for the war in Iraq (with both Rummy and Dick pulling the puppet strings) it was congress that rolled over, amongst both parties. So shorthanding it as "Bush" is easy and commonplace, but is also really misleading. But Obama, as well as the new congressmen, did inherit this mess and have to deal with it. Those who shout about Obama and the unbalanced budget are myopic at best.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @03:54PM (#31848916) Homepage Journal

    "Jim Lovell might have a business degree, but quite frankly, I'd need to know more before ascribing him business savvy."
    A degree from Harvard. You must at least say that he has a good business education.
    "The fact that I'm questioning their ability to properly assess a business decision has no impact on their past achievements - I'm sure we can agree on that."
    You are so willing to support this and keep throwing hero worship into it let me ask you.
    Obama has zero business, economic, and engineering experience and or education. All there of these men have multiple degrees in engineering and I am pretty sure all of them have at least one in Aerospace engineering. Which when judging this program I think is very valid.
    Even without comment form these men the current plan sounds like a giant waste to me.
    Keep building the Orion but not the launch vehicle so we can use it for a lifeboat on the space station? Really? Isn't that what the Soyuz is used for now?
    So we pay but get no capability.
    He wants to keep spending money on a new heavy lift system but no mission requirement!
    So no hero worship from me. These men make a good point and I do respect their judgment based on there education and life experience. Frankly if you compare their life experience and education to the Presidents they on average are as well or better educated. Jim Lovell has more degrees than President Obama. They have more business experience of which President Obama has none. And a lot more education and experience in engineering than President Obama has. If anything I would say your acceptance of President Obama's space plan is based on hero worship more so my feelings that it is a disaster.

Do not simplify the design of a program if a way can be found to make it complex and wonderful.