Neil Armstrong believes President Obama's plan for the space program may doom NASA to fall behind in this generation's space race:
"If the leadership we have acquired is simply allowed to fade away, other nations will surely step in where we have faltered," said the Apollo 11 commander. "I do not believe that this would be in our best interests."
Armstrong was skeptical of Obama's plan to rely on new space taxis developed by private companies after the space shuttles are retired. And while Obama has argued that NASA should be aiming for new destinations — like asteroids — Armstrong said he believes that there would be real benefits to returning to the moon, as NASA had planned.
Armstrong and Eugene Cernan — the last astronaut on the moon — told a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that the Obama plan was short on ambition, including the decision to alter the Bush administration's goal of establishing a permanent presence on the moon.
Cernan said that he, Armstrong and Apollo 13 Commander James Lovell agreed that the administration's budget for human space exploration "presents no challenges, has no focus, and in fact is a blueprint for a mission to 'nowhere."' Lovell, while not present at the hearing, issued a statement opposing Obama's NASA budget.
Speaking in the administration's defense, John Holdren, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, cited a blue-ribbon report that found that President George W. Bush's Constellation program was unexecutable because of budgetary constraints. The administration "is steadfast in its commitment to space exploration," he said.