Space engineer and entrepreneur Dennis Wingo has published "An Open Letter to Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and James Lovell" responding to their May 25 editorial which accused President Obama of dismantling U.S. human space flight for partisan political motivations.
While it may be that the current administration's plans are not perfect — and a new national debate on space appropriate — these plans stand head and shoulders over the plan that was the latter implementation of the Constellation program. Furthermore, these space veterans have been misinformed pertaining to the reasons for the demise and cancellation of the Constellation program.
Wingo's lengthy rebuttal details the history of Constellation, citing several Government Accountability Office audits warning of the program's problems.
(I've cited those too in past blogs, most notably the August 2009 audit titled, "Constellation Program Cost and Schedule Will Remain Uncertain Until a Sound Business Case Is Established.")
The three Apollo astronauts accused Obama of betraying President Kennedy's legacy. Wingo responds:
It is not that the Obama Administration wants to shut down the Kennedy legacy. Indeed I would argue that ending the ESAS/Constellation, de-scoping the heavy lift vehicle, and enabling the entry of private enterprise into space exploration will bring forth the ultimate expression of that legacy. From a portion of the quoted Kennedy text in the Apollo veterans missive:
"Now it is time to take longer strides — time for a great new American enterprise — time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth."
A question for Apollo veterans Armstrong, Cernan, and Lovell: Can you look at yourself in the mirror and say, without reservation, that the Apollo program, as it unfolded in history, held the key to our future on Earth? To our generation for the most part Apollo was a technical success but a policy failure — if that policy was, as Kennedy stated, that Apollo would be the key to our "future on Earth".