National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Content Section

From Newsweek

Put NASA on a Diet?! Them's Fightin' Words, Mr. President.

A new space race! After President Obama announced aggressive cuts to NASA—leaving Ares rockets, the Orion crew capsule and (most prominently) the Altair lunar lander of the mooncentric Constellation program on the cutting-room floor—the backlash from critics and prominent "space boosters" caused him to rethink the plan, senior administration officials said Tuesday night. Ahead of his Thursday visit to Cape Canaveral, Obama is now backpedaling into a new, gentler, milder plan, which will "revive part of the Constellation moon program, start a new heavy-rocket development project and create a $40 million initiative to help Kennedy Space Center workers find jobs after the space shuttle is retired later this year," per The Orlando Sentinel. Fierce opposition to Obama's original overhaul came from Congress members with NASA districts, where some 9,000 NASA jobs would've been eliminated, and also from the boldest-faced names in the astronaut community. Their reaction ranged from mild (Buzz Aldrin endorsed Obama's original plan) to downright irate: moon veterans like Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell slammed the cuts as effectively dismembering the U.S. space program, saying it "destines our nation to become one of second- or even third-rate stature." In a strongly worded letter to the administration, former astronauts Armstrong, Lovell, and Gene Cernan wrote that "It appears that we will have wasted our current $10-plus-billion investment in Constellation … Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downward slide to mediocrity." Zing! 

The takeaway? What the backlash over Constellation really demonstrated was stunning bipartisanship. On expensive, turgid, slow-moving institutions with a "glorious, trailblazing tradition," evidence of which was last seen four decades ago, it seems, we can all agree.

View As Single Page