Neil Armstrong, James Lovell, and Eugene Cernan feel the same way. The three sent a powerful letter to Obama, urging that he reconsider his policy, and pointing out its dangers. The letter focuses on the damage such cutbacks will have on America as a world leader. I would go even further, and stress the damage such a policy could have for Planet Earth, and we, its sentient inhabitants. The truth is that what little we have accomplished in space since the 1960s and 1970s is precious little. If we lose more of the opportunity we have failed to build upon since our voyages to the Moon, we could be sentenced forever to living on this planet, and no place else. As I pointed out in my 2003 book, RealSpace, this could well mean that we'll never know much more than we do right now out who we are, what we are doing here, about our place and role in this Universe. These reasons transcend political, military, and even scientific benefits. The deepest reasons for the human species to get beyond this planet are closer to spiritual.
Obama wants to stimulate a commercial space program - getting out into space financed by private enterprise - which is something I'm all in favor of. Capitalism is a powerful mechanism, and one of the problems our space program has had thus far is that it has failed to attract sufficient private and corporate investment.
But cutting back on NASA is not the way to do this. My online friend MPAndonee put it well, in his comment on the Huffington Post: "I voted for Obama, and am a big supporter of Health Care and many of the things he has tried to accomplish [but] I strongly disagree with the cancellation of the Orion, Constellation and Ares I and V. A strong commercial space industry would be great. But, until we get it, NASA is the only game in town."
Look at the birth dates of Neil Armstrong, James Lovell, and Eugene Cernan - 1930, 1928, 1934. That should tell us something about how fast our voyages to the Moon are receding into history. We're running out of time. The last thing we need now in our long journey to find our place in the universe is a cutback.
Added 4/18/10 - Here's a 15-minute podcast that I did on this topic, which provides a bit more explanation.
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