Neil Armstrong launches anger at Obama's NASA cuts. One of the first men to walk on the moon has reacted strongly and critically to Obama's plans to decrease funding of NASA's space exploration programs. Armstrong typically shies from the spotlight since his famous moon walk 41 years ago but recently addressed the President in an open letter with fellow former astronauts Gene Cernan, the last man to set foot on the Moon, and Jim Lovell, commander of 1970's Apollo 13 mission.
In the letter, Armstrong called Obama's plan a "long downhill slide to mediocrity" which will have "devastating" effects on the United State's future space exploits. Armstrong maintains "America’s only path to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station will now be subject to an agreement with Russia to purchase space on their Soyuz – at a price of over $50 million [£32 million] per seat with significant increases expected in the near future – until we have the capacity to provide transportation for ourselves.....The availability of a commercial transport to orbit as envisioned in the President’s proposal cannot be predicted with any certainty, but is likely to take substantially longer and be more expensive than we would hope."
Armstrong furthered that "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” and added "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 programme which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal.”
Obama will land at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, April 15, 2010 to discuss his NASA plans against tough criticism. Over 27 other retired astronauts, flight directors, former NASA officials, and some of the forerunners on Space exploration have deemed Obama's plan "wrong for our country" and "misguided." Of those 27, 12 of which have already walked on the moon. The group stated: "For those of us who have accepted the risk and dedicated a portion of our lives to the exploration of outer space, this is a terrible decision. Too many men and women have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to achieve America’s pre-eminence in space, only to see that effort needlessly thrown away…This is not the time to abandon the promise of the space frontier for a lack of will or an unwillingness to pay the price.”
Representatives from the White House have yet to formally address Armstrong's stance though many support his cause. Obama touts his plans, including scrapping the Constellation mission, as "a bold new course."