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Former Astronauts Call Obama NASA Plans "Catastrophic" 555

krou writes "Talking to the BBC at a private function held at the Royal Society in London, former astronauts Jim Lovell and Eugene Cernan both spoke out about Obama's decision to postpone further moon missions. Lovell claimed that 'it will have catastrophic consequences in our ability to explore space and the spin-offs we get from space technology,' while Cernan noted he was 'disappointed' to have been the last person to land on the moon. Said Cernan: 'I think America has a responsibility to maintain its leadership in technology and its moral leadership ... to seek knowledge. Curiosity's the essence of human existence.' Neil Armstrong, who was also at the event, avoided commenting on the subject."
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Former Astronauts Call Obama NASA Plans "Catastrophic"

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    American can, should, must and will blow up the moon [].
    • It's totally inconceivable to imagine that when the Japanese Astronauts, the Chinese Taikonauts and the Indian Hehenauts live and work in their respectable moon-bases, we Americans are still stuck in the bottom of the gravity well.

      The worst of all is this --- Not only are we stuck here, we rather waste time debating if we want to give the degenerates free healthcare than find ways to send our troopers to the moon.

  • Priorities. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Beelzebud ( 1361137 )
    I'd rather have health care than a trip to the moon for 4 people.

    Maybe if we hadn't squandered a trillion dollars on the unnecessary war in Iraq we could afford things like going to the moon again.
    • Re:Priorities. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Cheerio Boy ( 82178 ) * on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:47PM (#31467422) Homepage Journal

      I'd rather have health care than a trip to the moon for 4 people. Maybe if we hadn't squandered a trillion dollars on the unnecessary war in Iraq we could afford things like going to the moon again.


      A big portion of our bleeding economy is flowing out the giant bullet hole labeled "War against terror." and if we just stopped a _single_ _war_ that we're involved with we'd have a ton of money to put towards all sorts of stuff.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dfetter ( 2035 )

        It's not just the "War on Terror." It's all the wars. We face no external threats, militarily speaking. It's time for us to discard our empire.

        • What "empire" (Score:4, Insightful)

          by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:02PM (#31467558)

          We face no external threats, militarily speaking. It's time for us to discard our empire.

          And what "empire" is that exactly? Do you demand we let go of Puerto Rico?

          Other than that we have a number of military actions in areas where we are supporting democratic governments - Iraq and Iran - that are not in any way part of a U.S. "empire" (for better or worse).

          As for the lack of military threats, I suggest to tell that to the people attacking our military and citizens. Perhaps they will stop once they realize they do not exist.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Beelzebud ( 1361137 )
            People attacking our military might have something to do with us occupying their countries.
          • Maybe if we weren't in their country they wouldn't be attacking?
          • Re:What "empire" (Score:5, Informative)

            by ctishman ( 545856 ) <(ctishman) (at) (> on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:26PM (#31467756)
            You're thinking of an empire in the 18th and 19th-century sense of the word – a sense that died its last official breath after WWII, when Britain released the last of its official colonies. In that era, when the nation-state was the ultimate expression of power, a colony flew the colonizer's flag, spoke its language, had the colonizer's religion imposed upon it. Going back into the heyday of colonialism, conquest was government-centric; national glory was the cause. With the rise of international business, however, the nation-state itself has been supplanted by the multinational corporation. They do not work for the glory of the nation, but for their own glory. They do not respect the laws of the nation, and do not obey except where those laws are convenient or enforceable. In short, the heyday of the nation-state is over. Let it not be said that the nation-state is dead, though. We're still in the centuries-long transition between forms of cultural organization, so while governments are the only ones permitted to hold the weapons (this, too is changing and will continue to change over our lifetimes), the multinationals' interests dictate where those weapons are pointed and when. This is why the United States has military presence in over a hundred countries in a time of peace. These are the agents of modern colonialism. This is why there are terrorist attacks against our troops and our cities and citizens. Not because they hate our freedoms, but because we are camped out, toting guns, on their land, and have been for a hundred years now.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I think dfetter is talking about this empire. []

          • Re:What "empire" (Score:5, Informative)

            by surfcow ( 169572 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:10PM (#31468112) Homepage

            I respectfully disagree.

            US military spending accounts for 48% of the world's total military spending. (Look it up. [])

            For comparison, US military spending is 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran.

            The US is the world's top arms merchant, sometimes selling to both sides in a given conflict.

            The US has military installations in 60+ nations.

            The US sometimes literally installs governments and supports many petty dictators and corrupt puppets - in exchange for their loyalty and cooperation.

            All this sounds like an empire to me.

            But don't believe me. Do some research. Hit wikipedia, google "World military spending", study world history, etc.

            If you still believe the US is not an empire, explain why not. Help me understand the distinction. I am willing to give you a fair listen with an open mind.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              I'm going to argue that the United States is not an empire. The more appropriate word is "hegemony."

              Honestly, though, I think most people recognize that the country's global influence has peaked. If the US is an empire, it's not Rome, it's Byzantium.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by rolfwind ( 528248 )

            And what "empire" is that exactly? Do you demand we let go of Puerto Rico?

            How about the 835 installations located throughout the world?

            What about the billion dollar embassies being built in Baghdad?
            Or being built now in London?

            Rome also placed "installations" all around Europe during its height and had to

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Everything I have experienced as a Iraq combat vet disagrees with this. All the threats we face are threats of our own creation coming home to roost, often decades later and because of our lack of foresight. For example, our backing of the creation of Israel as an American front to help maintain the middle east with nuclear weapons, which then turns more Arabs against us. Then there are things like our "support" of democracy by doing things like overthrowing Iran's democratically elected leader and installi
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by couchslug ( 175151 )

            "Other than that we have a number of military actions in areas where we are supporting democratic governments - Iraq and Iran"

            We could be said to support the Iranian government by providing an external threat.but you seem to have gotten your countries mixed up as did the brilliant folks who modded your post Insightful.

            BTW, "empires" need not involve permanent occupation after killing off opponents any more than those who wage unconventional war need permanently submit to conventional firepower after being b

        • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

          We face no external threats, militarily speaking.

          Resources have been and always will be a great excuse to go to war. Considering the unsustainable growth rate of the human species it is only a matter of time before incredibly populous countries (for example, China) decide that they need to expand. The only thing keeping them from choosing to expand into the US is our military. The only thing keeping them from expanding into Russia is the Russian military. Same goes for Japan and so on.

          In addition to large

          • The only thing keeping them from choosing to expand into the US is our military.

            That and a GIGANTIC FUCKING OCEAN! The only reason we can afford to fight so many wars is that it is very hard to invade America.

            • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:33PM (#31468274)

              That and a GIGANTIC FUCKING OCEAN! The only reason we can afford to fight so many wars is that it is very hard to invade America.

              You may not have heard, but we've developed these things called "ships" and "airplanes" over the last couple centuries. You should read up on them - they're really kinda cool! Some 70 years ago, they allowed forces from the US, Canada, and Australia to successfully invade and defeat enemies in several nations, even though there were oceans in between!

              I know, I know, it's hard to believe. Don't take my word on it - I'm sure if you google "World War 2" you should be able to come up with some confirmatory evidence.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by dryeo ( 100693 )

                You sure you aren't American? As your knowledge of history points to being American educated.
                The US, Australia and Canada did not invade and defeat enemies across the ocean. They went across the the Ocean to a base on an Island just a few miles away from the mainland called the British Isles and attacked from there. Look it up, the invasion of Europe was launched from England.
                Also one of the main reasons for the success of the invasion was due to the USSR attacking overland from the other direction.
                Up the p

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Personally, as a Republican, I think that you're grossly underestimating the threat our country faces from Islamic extremists, communists, socialists, gays, scientists, atheists, minorities, Mexicans, Africans, African-Americans, Asians, Russians, Palestinians, Europeans, South Americans, Canadians, Californians, hippies, aborted fetuses, 2pac, the New York Mets...

    • Re:Priorities. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kurokame ( 1764228 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:02PM (#31467552)
      Access to health care is still a big problem in the USA. But huge swaths of modern medicine are the result of human space travel. It's hard to find anything today that isn't in some way reliant on space-related research.

      Further Research [].

      I'm not saying that postponing a manned return to the Moon is catastrophic by itself - but we depend on space travel for so much today that scaling back our efforts there amounts to saving pennies today (NASA's budget is a tiny drop in the federal budget!) by throwing away potentially massive results tomorrow. And this is aside from how important exploration is in purely human terms.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xylantiel ( 177496 )

        I'm not saying that postponing a manned return to the Moon is catastrophic by itself

        If you're interested in NASA doing R&D (which you seem to be) you're on the wrong side of this argument. The whole point is to get NASA out of the mud and back to actually doing R&D on things that haven't already been done over and over.

        To me this comes down to the fact that there are three ways to "get stuff into space":

        1. spend gobs of money reinventing the wheel to do it in-house at NASA, in some way that inherently doesn't compete with the private aerospace companies
        2. contract it out to US a
    • Plus, let's face it, those old Apollo and pre-Apollo astronauts are a wacky bunch of old coots. The ones that aren't out on the ufo circuit are into new age silliness or Republican politics. They're still living in the late 1960's. They're idea of a space program is a "space race" where we "get there" before the Russians and stick a flag in the dirt, take a picture and go home.

      In fact, Jim Lovell, who owns a restaurant here on the North Shore just outside Chicago, is a big fundraiser for the GOP. I'm su

  • How about we explore the forests and oceans first. There's lots of scientific knowledge to be gained right here on earth.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Fred_A ( 10934 )

      How about we explore the forests and oceans first. There's lots of scientific knowledge to be gained right here on earth.

      We killed everything in there already. That's why we're looking for new life to kill elsewhere.

    • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

      Scientists aren't competent in everything. There are plenty biologists who wouldn't want to go to Mars for research, and I imagine that people with an interest in space aren't that interested in forests either.

      Also, if you neglect a field of research people with experience in it disappear, and are hard to replace later. We can't just forget about space for 20 years until the economy improves. If we do that the people who used to build engines, research rockets, investigate how to live in space, etc, will di

  • Different research (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:53PM (#31467474)

    Bringing men to the moon currently wouldn't add anything of value. It was possible in the '60s, doing it now would not bring any advancement. Space money is better spent on research for new propulsion systems and ways to get off the Earth. When that is done, THEN go to the moon.

  • by zmollusc ( 763634 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:56PM (#31467492)

    With modern CGI techniques, surely faking moon landings should be getting cheaper?

  • by Rooked_One ( 591287 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:08PM (#31467622) Journal
    if the republicans got elected the same thing would be going on - very little funding to NASA etc... Now, I can't help but wonder if both sides are really just one side... The all have two things in common. They got elected, and they want to stay elected. That's politics 101.
  • Why don't more private rich guys step up and fund moon missions?

  • the last person to land on the moon

    Gene Cernan was the last person to walk on the moon. He was one of the two last people to land on the moon.

    Though if you think about it. If landing on the moon inside a vehicle counts then walking on the moon inside a vehicle should also count, so he is still one of the two last people to walk on the moon.

    Neil Armstrong, who was also at the event, avoided commenting on the subject.

    True to form.

  • Granted, there are a *lot* of wastes in government I would like to see go away before government-funded manned spaceflight, but the US deficit is growing *dangerously* large. If the partisan divide is too great to eliminate anything else, something has to go, at least temporarily, before our social services go completely by the wayside, or much, much worse. I'm not saying that this is anywhere near the best choice. But these days, our country is divided that nothing else can be agreed on. Our politicians ar
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:36PM (#31467848) Journal

    It's rather interesting that Buzz Aldrin has a completely opposite view of the new plan: []

    ... The President courageously decided to redirect our nation's space policy away from the foolish and underfunded Moon race that has consumed NASA for more than six years, aiming instead at boosting the agency's budget by more than $1 billion more per year over the next five years, topping off at $100 billion for NASA between now and 2015. And he directed NASA to spend a billion per year on buying rides for American astronauts aboard new, commercially developed space vehicles-that's American space vehicles. Other NASA funds will go into developing and testing new revolutionary technologies that we can use in living and working on Mars and its moons. ... 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.

    Enter the new Obama administration. Before deciding what to do about national space policy, Obama set up an outside review panel of space experts, headed up by my friend Norm Augustine, former head of Lockheed Martin and a former government official. Augustine's team took testimony and presentations from many people with ideas on what way forward NASA should take (that group included me). In October, it presented its report to the President and to Dr. John Holdren, Obama's science advisor and a friend and colleague of mine. The report strongly suggested the nation move away from the troubled rocket program, called Ares 1, and both extend the life of the space station and develop commercial ways of sending astronauts and cargoes up to the station. And it suggested a better way to spend our taxpayer dollars would be not focused on the Moon race, but on something it called a "Flexible Path." Flexible in the sense that it would redirect NASA towards developing the capability of voyaging to more distant locations in space, such as rendezvous with possibly threatening asteroids, or comets, or even flying by Mars to land on its moons. Many different destinations and missions would be enabled by that approach, not just one.

    But with the limited NASA budget consumed by the Moon, no funds were available for this development effort -- until now. Now President Obama has signaled that new direction -- what

  • by sonicmerlin ( 1505111 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:00PM (#31468038)

    The good news for sure is an increase of $6 billion over the next five years. It stresses new technology and innovation (to the tune of over $1.5 billion), which is also good. A lot of NASA’s successes have been from pushing the limits on what can be done. It also stresses Earth science, which isn’t surprising at all; Obama appears to understand the importance of our environmental impact, including global warming. So that’s still good news.

    The very very good news is that half that money — half, folks, 3.2 billion dollars — is going to science. Yeehaw! The release specifically notes telescopes and missions to the Moon and planets. That, my friends, sounds fantastic.

    NASA’s Constellation program – based largely on existing technologies – was based on a vision of returning astronauts back to the Moon by 2020. However, the program was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies. Using a broad range of criteria an independent review panel determined that even if fully funded, NASA’s program to repeat many of the achievements of the Apollo era, 50 years later, was the least attractive approach to space exploration as compared to potential alternatives. Furthermore, NASA’s attempts to pursue its moon goals, while inadequate to that task, had drawn funding away from other NASA programs, including robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observations. The President’s Budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration

  • In the year 2137: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:39PM (#31468340)

    A child on the Ghanaian Space Agency base on Europa asks her father, "Almost every nation on Earth has built outposts and colonies in the Solar system except America. What happened to them, Daddy?".

    "Oh, they decided to stay home and play Dark Orbit instead."

  • by BigFootApe ( 264256 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @11:30PM (#31469442)

    Ares I was a piece of pork which should have long since been canceled. I'm glad it's gone. Everyone knows there are currently two US boosters (three soon enough) in the same weight and performance category and part of Obama's plan is to use those to go into LEO. This makes sense.

    What no one has discussed, either in the pro Constellation crowd or those against, is what the propulsion package will be for Flexible Path. I'd like to see some of the ideas behind DIRECT refined so we end up with a moderately economical, scalable launch architecture for really heavy payloads. COTS is not likely to develop this on their own, they're happy at 25 tons to LEO and under. It's where their profit is. Note, I'm choosing to be optimistic on Flexible path being funded and implemented.

    It looks like Orion Lite from Bigelow/Boeing/Lockheed is the front runner for crew transport. I'm not sure how much commonality is possible between it and a future Orion Heavy used for lunar or martian missions. Hopefully building one makes it easier to build the other.

  • by Dolphinzilla ( 199489 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @08:41AM (#31471520) Journal

    When I was 6 years old my parents moved to Titusville, Florida right across the Indian River Lagoon from the VAB. I grew up watching Saturn V's, Atlas, Delta, Titan, and Shuttle space vehicles thunder skyward. I went to school with the sons and daughters of real "Rocket Scientists". I'd say the number one reason I got into the engineering field was the excitement and allure of these kind of epic and difficult endeavors. What inspires people to go into engineering today ? I only worked on Spacecraft and launch systems for 10 years before I got into other things, but would I have been inspired at all by a presidential challenge to build a better battery, or an energy efficient home ? I somehow doubt it. So I would argue that not only does going to the moon spin-of useful technology it inspires the youth of today and tomorrow to achieve great things in engineering !

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"