Will Obama's Revised NASA Plan Satisfy Critics?

Astronauts, commentators, and Congress are split

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Later today President Obama will announce his new plans for space travel at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Initially, Obama proposed shelving NASA's manned moon program Constellation. He's now expected to walk that back, retaining at least one element of the program. Will this satisfy critics? Here's a look at the lively debate surrounding NASA's future:

  • The President's Doing the Right Thing, applauds celebrity astronaut Buzz Aldrin in a statement Wednesday:  "The President's program will help us be in this endeavor for the long haul and will allow us to again push our boundaries to achieve new and challenging things beyond Earth. I believe that this is the right program at the right time, and I hope that NASA and our dedicated space community will embrace this new direction as much as I do." Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, has also voiced support of the plan. "The proposed program articulates a strategy for human exploration that will excite and energize the next generation," she says.
  • No He Isn't, countered Neil Armstrong in an open letter (covered by the Wire here): "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. 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."
  • We Can't Keep Spending Like This, writes Cynthia Tucker at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The country can’t afford to pay for everything. Some big expensive programs have to be cut, and cutting the program aimed at putting Americans back on the moon seems reasonable."
  • This Is Important for the Country, write U.S. Reps. Gene Green and John Culberson in the Houston Chronicle: "Constellation is our only hope to close the current five-year gap in U.S. access to space, and closing the gap is the key to capturing the passion, support and enthusiasm of the next generation the same way President Kennedy's space race captured ours. NASA's manned space program has created a class of citizen heroes unlike any the world has known. Only in America can children of no means grow up to be the Columbuses and the Magellans of our time, funded not by the gold and gems of monarchs, but by a democracy committed to the daring and unending pursuit of knowledge."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.