Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan: Obama’s NASA Plan a ‘Blueprint for a Mission to Nowhere’

By Nicholas Ballasy | May 17, 2010 | 4:26 PM EDT

( -- Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13, and Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon, have determined that President Barack Obama’s plan to cut funding for NASA’s Constellation manned space program is a “blueprint for a mission to nowhere”--a message Armstrong and Cernan pointedly delivered in person to a Senate committee last week.

“Neil, Jim Lovell, and I have come to a unanimous conclusion that this budget proposal presents no challenges, has no focus, and is in fact a blueprint for a mission to nowhere,” Cernan said at a May 12 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Neil Armstrong testified, “I’m very concerned that the new plan, as I understand it, will prohibit us from having human access to low-earth orbit on our own rockets and spacecraft until the private aerospace industry is able to qualify their hardware under development as rated for human occupancy.”
Obama’s proposed budget would cancel NASA’s plans for new manned space vehicles to succeed the Space Shuttle, and its Ares 1 and Ares V rockets. The Constellation program focuses on developing spacecraft to eventually send astronauts back to the moon and then to Mars. One of the program’s stated goals is to return to the moon by 2020.Both Cernan and Armstrong said senior NASA officials were not consulted about the budget cuts before they were announced.
“With regard to President Obama’s 2010 plan, I have yet to find a person in NASA, the Defense Department, the Air Force, the national academies, industry or academia that had any knowledge of the plan prior to its announcement,” said Armstrong.

Cernan said the lack of consultation with officials at NASA and DOD suggested that Obama's plan for NASA was put together directly by the White House, either by the Office of Management and Budget or the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

"It is unknown how much time and thought was put into the existing budget proposal for FY2011, or by whom this proposal was generated, but it is common knowledge that few if any of those government agencies referred to above were asked to participate, nor, of significant note, was the DOD or the engineering or management expertise that exists through NASA today," Cernan said in his written testimony. "This leads one to the conclusion that this proposal was most likely formulated in haste within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and/or the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), with little or no input from the NASA Administrator, center directors, or senior NASA management."

Cernan said the plan was "a travesty which flows against the grain of over 200 years of our history and, today, against the will of the majority of Americans."
Armstrong said the United States will have to buy passage to the International Space Station from Russia if Obama cancels the Constellation program with his fiscal year 2011 budget.
“The most experienced rocket engineers with whom I have spoken believe that it will require many years and substantial investment to reach the necessary level of safety and reliability,” said Armstrong.
“If these experts are correct,” he said, “the United States will be limited to buying passage to the International Space Station from Russia and will be prohibited from traveling to other destinations in low-earth orbit, such as the Hubble Telescope or any of the frequently mentioned destinations that are out on the space frontier.”