Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February 2, 2010

     "Fly me to the moon," the old song begins.  But if President Obama has his way they may want to change the second line to "but not anytime soon."  The president in his budget cancels a Bush-era program that would have put humans back on the moon by 2020.  The budget calls for a halt in the Constellation program, the rockets and spacecraft which would have returned people to the moon, a program announced by President George W. Bush after the loss of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
     Future travel--back to the moon, to Mars--would be international, like the Space Station.  This would presumably be cheaper, but also more complicated and slower.  With the Ares rocket cancelled, NASA would have no backup if commercial companies couldn't ferry astronauts to the space station. 
     But do we need to go back to the moon?  I remember the excitement of the first landing--Apollo 11, back in 1969.  CBS News, for which I then worked, stayed on the air the whole time Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stayed on the moon.  It was a huge story.  That was so long ago you watched it, if you're that old, on black white TV.  But the excitement ebbed and indeed NASA canceled the last few lunar landings--been there, done that, I guess.  It was, as Armstrong said, "a giant leap for all mankind."  But it got old.
     Should we go back?  Someday, if we can afford it.  And Mars would be exciting, no doubt about that.  But now, with two wars ongoing and the economy in trouble?  Put the canvas over the launch pad, guys, the president is probably right.   

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