As a result of the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, it was concluded that our space policy required a new strategic vision. Extensive studies and analysis led to this new mandate: meet our existing commitments, return to our exploration roots, return to the moon, and prepare to venture further outward to the asteroids and to Mars. The program was named "Constellation." In the ensuing years, this plan was endorsed by two Presidents of different parties and approved by both Democratic and Republican congresses.
The Columbia Accident Board had given NASA a number of recommendations fundamental to the Constellation architecture which were duly incorporated. The Ares rocket family was patterned after the Von Braun Modular concept so essential to the success of the Saturn 1B and the Saturn 5. A number of components in the Ares 1 rocket would become the foundation of the very large heavy lift Ares V, thus reducing the total development costs substantially. After the Ares 1 becomes operational, the only major new components necessary for the Ares V would be the larger propellant tanks to support the heavy lift requirements.
The design and the production of the flight components and infrastructure to implement this vision was well underway. Detailed planning of all the major sectors of the program had begun. Enthusiasm within NASA and throughout the country was very high.
When President Obama recently released his budget for NASA, he proposed a slight increase in total funding, substantial research and technology development, an extension of the International Space Station operation until 2020, long range planning for a new but undefined heavy lift rocket and significant funding for the development of commercial access to low earth orbit.
Although some of these proposals have merit, the accompanying decision to cancel the Constellation program, its Ares 1 and Ares V rockets, and the Orion spacecraft, is devastating.
America’s only path to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station will now be subject to an agreement with Russia to purchase space on their Soyuz (at a price of over 50 million dollars per seat with significant increases expected in the near future) until we have the capacity to provide transportation for ourselves. The availability of a commercial transport to orbit as envisioned in the President’s proposal cannot be predicted with any certainty, but is likely to take substantially longer and be more expensive than we would hope.
It appears that we will have wasted our current $10-plus billion investment in Constellation and, equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded.
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.
Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity. America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal.
Neil Armstrong Commander, Apollo 11
James Lovell Commander, Apollo 13
Eugene Cernan Commander, Apollo 17
Second rate nation
well guys you're just gonna have to get used to what the rest of the world already know
>>They insist: "For The United States, the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century.
There have been 22 Russians who have spent over a year in space, but only three Americans, of those three, one was half British and another only just did it by about 16 hours, in additon Russia also holds these "firsts";
First human in space
First (unmanned) moon (impact!) landing
First (unmanned) moon landing
First samples returned from the moon
First day spent in space
First full year spent in space
First manned space station
First woman in space
First woman to do a spacewalk
First two-man spacecraft
First three-man spacecraft
It was five years (1964) after the russian successes (1959) that the USA got something to land on the moon (all the pioneer missions failed and only the last three ranger ones which were successful and they were 'impact' missions).
As a side note, the USA achieved their space program by employing Nazis and war criminals, the russian achievements were far more numerous and moraly sound.
Don't get me wrong first man on the moon *way* cool (even if it's only for political reasons), but in no way has the USA been "the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century".
I've lived too long...
and this makes me sadder than ever....buggrit! Am old enough, and a bit, to remember ALL of the space race, and the years of expectation...the Moon, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter...mining asteroids and maybe the Oort cloud...we could feckin' well do it!!...or so we thought.....buggerin' feckin' politicians...to see my boyhood heroes reduced to this??? shall now go into dark cupboard and cry for a bit.