President Obama is promoting his new vision for America's space program, but he faces powerful opposition: Some of the nation's most famous astronauts say his plan will be "devastating" to space exploration. Obama wants to cancel the $108 billion program to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, but boost NASA's budget by $6 billion over five years, investing in longer term projects and encouraging private efforts to transport people into space. Apollo-era commanders Jim Lovell, Eugene Cernan, and the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, say the Obama plan—in particular, doing away with the new lunar mission—puts the U.S. on "a long downhill slide to mediocrity." Who's right? (Watch Obama's announcement.)
The government doesn't belong in the space travel business: It doesn't matter what Neil Armstrong wants, says Ryan W. McMaken in LewRockwell.com. "Government spending on the space program is unnecessary and totally wasteful" now that private companies like Virgin Galactic are investing in space travel. And manned space travel is unnecessary, since robots can tell us as more about the surface of Mars than a "glorified crash-test dummy" like Armstrong.
"Obama does one decent thing: Cuts space budget"
The space race is finally over ... and Russia has won: "The U.S. has surrendered its advantage in space" to nations "who are probably our enemies," says University of Arizona science policy expert Jane Orient, as quoted by Fox News. With the space shuttle fleet retiring, our astronauts at the International Space Station will be hostages to Russia, whom we will have to pay to transport people into orbit and back again.
"Star Wars: Neil Armstrong, Obama spar over NASA's future"
Both paths carry risks, but the private route could work: Cutting the shuttle program will cost thousands of jobs, says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air. That could threaten national security by pushing aerospace companies to look abroad for work. On the other hand, Obama's "flexible" strategy moves us "more toward a decentralized, private market approach to space flight." Maybe "conservatives demanding fiscal discipline" should be willing to give it a try.
"Armstrong vs Aldrin on the future of the space program?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- 6 tiny scientific mistakes that created huge disasters
- Inside Turkey's shadow war with ISIS
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
Subscribe to the Week