Neil Armstrong criticises abandoning space travel

Moon Landings - NASANeil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has criticised the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet and warned it meant America was losing its position as the world’s forerunner in space exploration.

In 1969 Neil Armstrong made world history when he became the first man on walk on the surface of the Moon. When man reached the moon way back then many speculate it would be no time at all till man walked on Mars and other bodies within our solar system. There was something of a boon in science fiction stories – both television and book based – about man reaching out to the stars and establishing colonies by the end of the 20th century. It never happened of course. Manned exploration of space never got further than the moon (bar the several space stations launched since 1969) and by the mid 1970s NASA and the world had abandoned manned flights to the lunar surface.

With the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet – which helped build the International Space station – the future of manned exploration in space looks uncertain. The space shuttles were originally conceived as a way to take man further out into space but that never happened and with the state of the world economy it is looking increasingly unlikely man will reach Mars – or even return to the Moon – any time soon. This sorry state of affairs isn’t acceptable to Neil Armstrong who has strongly criticised the retirement of the space shuttle fleet and the state of America’s manned exploration plans.

“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. A lead, however earnestly and expensively won, once lost, is nearly impossible to regain.”
Armstrong told a congressional committee. Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon in the 1970s, went even further Space Shuttlesand urged the Space Shuttle fleet to be brought back into service. “Get the shuttle out of the garage down there at Kennedy, crank up the motors and put it back in service. 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?” He added “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….As unimaginable as it seems, we have now come full circle and ceded our leadership role in space back to the same country—albeit by a different name—that spurred our challenge five decades ago.”

The Space Shuttle fleet was retired earlier this year because of the safety of the shuttles. Fatal flaws within the shuttles resulted in the Challenger disaster of 1986 and the Columbia disaster of 2003. All the astronauts onboard the two shuttles died in the accidents.

It seems, for now, that the future of manned exploration of our Solar System will be left to the works of science fiction for some time to come.

(Via Blastr and Discovery News)