"A Vision to Nowhere": Gene Cernan on Barack Obama's plan for American space exloration.
I was fortunate enough to watch Neil Cavuto interview Gene Cernan yesterday afternoon. For those who don’t already know, Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17 and the last man to walk on the surface of the moon. The date was December 14, 1972. Nearly 38 years ago. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Capt. Cernan, perhaps because his no-nonsense, can-do, ‘don’t B***S*** me!’ attitude seems, to me, to exemplify the character of the men who were at the vanguard of space exploration and human achievement for their time. I was 4 years old when Capt. Cernan stepped into the Lunar Module, The Challenger, and made his way back to home. We haven’t been back since.
It doesn’t look like we’re (or at least Americans aren’t) going to be back on the moon anytime soon and Cernan, myself and a lot of other people aren’t happy about it. Cernan made the news recently with an open letter he wrote to the Obama administration that was also signed by Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell criticizing the direction or, more accurately, the lack of direction in the White House policy on space exploration. Here’s an excerpt:
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.
Yesterday Cernan told Cavuto that he, and many other astronauts were unhappy with Obama’s plan and stated that he has “… concerns about the future of this country. I’m not on board with Obama’s transformation of America. The President’s vision is a vision to nowhere. Nothing has changed today after I heard the President. You can take parts of his glib presentation today and add them up and there is no definition, no detail, there’s no real destination, no focus.” I couldn’t agree with him more. The U.S. government has decided to walk away from a $10 Billion investment in the Constellation Program. A mistake, in my opinion. It makes more sense to establish a base on the moon from which subsequent planetary exploration missions can be staged. Former head of NASA, Dr. Mike Griffin, had this to say when asked about the cancellation:
“Only once previously has a US president recommended to the Congress that this nation take a backward step in space. On that occasion, President Nixon cancelled the Apollo programme, a decision which will come to be regarded as one of the most strategically bankrupt decisions in human history. If such a thing is possible, this decision is even worse.”
Cernan’s last word’s before he entered the Challenger for the long spaceflight home were as follows:
“As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record — that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”
Do we have to wait another generation?
I couldn’t find video of Capt. Cernan on Cavuto’s show but was able to find an interview conducted earlier in the day where he talks about Obama’s “vision to nowhere”. Have a look.
And here .. a study in contrast: