In an open-letter to NBC, former astronauts Neil Armstrong, James Lovell and Eugene Cernan have delivered a dire warning to President Barak Obama, urging him to reconsider what they say could be devastating plans for the U.S. space enterprise that could doom the country to eventual “third-rate” status in space. The letter appears on the eve of the President's visit to NASA's Kennedy Space Center tomorrow and his upcoming announcements about the limited survival of aspects of the Constellation program - including the Orion crew vehicle. Here’s a sample of the letter – to read the full text visit MSNBC’s site.
It appears that we will have wasted our current $10-plus billion investment in Constellation and, equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded.
For The United States, the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future, destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature. While the President's plan envisages humans traveling away from Earth and perhaps toward Mars at some time in the future, the lack of developed rockets and spacecraft will assure that ability will not be available for many years.
Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity. America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal.