As someone who has the rare privilege of saying that he watched man step foot on the moon for the very first time on his thirteenth birthday I will say that watching the decline of the U.S. space program to nothing more than a bystander after the final space shuttle trip has been a little on the depressing side.
I apparently am not alone as two of NASA’s Apollo era astronauts have become very vocal on America’s relinquishing of being a leader in space exploration.
At a recent hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Neil Armstrong; the man I watched at 13 place man’s first footprint on the Moon, had a few strong words about the situation.
“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.”
Next up, Eugene Cernan, who commanded the last Apollo moon mission and was the last man to step on the Moon, had this to say about the current situation with the International Space Station and NASA in general.
“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.
Such a sad state of affairs, especially for a country who wrote the book on going to space and the moon.