Nix NASA Completely, Apollo Astronaut Says
2011 05 27

By Natalie Wolchover | Space.com

NASA should be scrapped in favor of a new agency, one with the sole objective of furthering America’s exploration of deep space. So says Harrison Schmitt, the last man to set foot on the moon, in a proposal published online today (May 25).

Schmitt, a member of Apollo 17 in 1972 and later a one-term U.S. senator, proposed that the new space agency be called the National Space Exploration Administration.


Astronaut Harrison Schmitt collects lunar rake samples during an Apollo 17 moonwalk in December 1973.
CREDIT: NASA

Fifty years after John F. Kennedy’s famous speech that set America on its glorious path to the moon, Schmitt, 75, said NASA has lost its focus. The Apollo program helped win the Cold War, strengthened national unity and set up the United States to take control of lunar resources, but NASA has withered under later presidencies, including Barack Obama’s, Schmitt said.

"I don’t blame NASA as much as I blame various administrations for not recognizing the geopolitical importance of space," he told SPACE.com. [Video: President Kennedy’s Moonshot Moment]

Schmitt’s call for overhauling the space program is partly a response to Obama’s 2012 budget, which critics say increased the funding for space technology research at NASA but did not provide adequate funding for deep-space exploration.

Other Apollo astronauts have lamented the lack of focus on exploration.

In a May 24 op-ed in USA Today, Apollo mission commanders Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan wrote, "After a half-century of remarkable progress, a coherent plan for maintaining America’s leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent."

Apollo 17 crewmates Cernan and Schmitt were the world’s last moonwalkers.

If formed in 2013, the proposed NSEA could send Americans back to the moon by 2020, Schmitt says, and establish lunar settlements and Mars exploration and settlements in the decades after that. It also would develop the ability to deflect Earth-bound asteroids. All of NASA’s current scientific endeavors would be within the purview of the National Science Foundation and other government-funded science organizations.

The significance of space

Schmitt believes refocusing on space exploration is crucial for the United States to maintain its status as a superpower.

"This is not just a competition between nations; it’s a competition between freedom and tyranny," Schmitt said. "The United States is the only power on Earth today that has in its DNA a protection of liberty, and if we decide to back off from space or any other major human endeavor, then we put that liberty in jeopardy.

"The Obama administration has basically said that they won’t pursue an exceptional space program for the United States and that they’re just as happy to have China move forward into deep space, and be dependent on Russia for transport to the International Space Station."

Schmitt, who was elected to the Senate in 1976 as a Republican from New Mexico, says China’s domination of deep space and Russia’s domination of near-Earth space would lower America’s international standing of the U.S. in the same way the Soviet Union winning the space race would have changed the outcome of the Cold War.

On top of the perceptions and politics, Schmitt argues that deep-space exploration is necessary for controlling space resources ? in particular, a fusion fuel called helium-3 that comes from the sun and is preserved in lunar soils. "Under certain financial constraints, helium-3 can be economically viable as a fuel for fusion power reactors here on Earth, and to have that dominated by another power such as China I think would be very dangerous for us. That’s just another aspect of the geopolitical significance of exploration," Schmitt said.

Read the full article at: space.com




Related Articles
Private space capsule launched
’UFO’ Spotted Over Australia "Likely a Private Rocket"?
Private Space Age Turns 4
The Alien Moon - Why NASA Never Returned To The Moon
NASA sells shuttle PCs without wiping secret data
To Boldly Go to New Worlds, NASA Announces ’100-Year Starship’
USA already went to Mars : NASA astronaut Gene Cernan
Was NASA’s plan to return to the moon just an illusion?
Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: NASA’s Lost Female Astronauts


Latest News from our Front Page

EU on high alert as Germany accepts Ebola patients
2014 07 30
A German hospital has agreed to treat Ebola patients amid widespread fears of a possible outbreak of the deadly disease in Europe. Over 670 people have already been killed by the disease in West Africa with doctors struggling to control the epidemic. A German hospital in Hamburg agreed to accept patients following a request from the World Health Organization (WHO), Deutsche ...
Bolivia declares Israel terrorist regime
2014 07 30
Bolivia has declared Israel a “terrorist state” and revoked a visa exemption agreement with Tel Aviv in protest at the ongoing Israeli attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip. The move "means, in other words, we are declaring (Israel) a terrorist state," President Evo Morales said during talks with a group of educators in the city of Cochabamba ...
Pagan Traditions: Mysteries of medieval graffiti in England’s churches
2014 07 30
Medieval graffiti of straw kings, pentagrams, crosses, ships and "demon traps" have been offering a tantalising glimpse into England’s past. What do the pictures reveal about life in the Middle Ages? A project to record the graffiti, which began in Norfolk, has now been rolled out to other areas and is gradually spreading across England. Armed with just a torch and a ...
More Gigantic Holes Appear in Siberia’s ’End of the World’
2014 07 30
Is it the end of the world in Siberia’s ’End of the World’? Scientists suspect not, but they’re still investigating the strange and alarming holes that are swallowing up the Siberian north. This week two new holes have been discovered, and with similar characteristics as the first reported hole: a very deep shaft with smooth sides, debris surrounding the rim, and water ...
BLACKLISTED: The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist
2014 07 30
The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept. The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, ...
More News »