Reclusive national hero and astronaut Neil Armstrong has been choosing his words carefully as he criticizes president Barack Obama’s plan to cut funding to the space program. The first man on the moon who once said “one giant leap for mankind” has some carefully selected words of criticism for the president’s massive budget cuts for the space program calling the president out on an issue that is very close to home for many in the United States: The hand outstretched for the stars.
Armstrong is best known for his heroic flight to the moon in July of 1969 when he landed the Lunar Module on the surface with only seconds of fuel left to spare after a mishap with their landing sight forced him to touch down elsewhere. He then hung up his moon boots saying he would never again himself attempt space travel, but worked for the sake of humanity toward reaching a goal that most people today agree is a worthwhile endeavor, teaching and spreading knowledge of his experience in NASA and helping to investigate a couple of NASA’s unexplained accidents throughout time. As the space program lost momentum, Armstrong made suggestions to help get the program out of the rut it has been supposedly in since the 1970’s after Apollo 13. And now he says the space program is meeting an untimely end just as some of its more recent and promising programs were beginning to get off the ground.
“A plan that was invisible to so many was likely contrived by a very small group in secret who persuaded the President that this was a unique opportunity to put his stamp on a new and innovative program,” he said regarding the sudden change in policy. Armstrong criticized the “air of secrecy” surrounding the February announcement by Obama to cancel NASA’s Constellation program aiming for a return to the moon. The program’s cancellation, according to Armstrong and several others who are either in or work closely with NASA was a huge surprise. And other groups with their sights set high were surprised as well, including the military (which has been working ever more closely with NASA) and those studying the various programs in academia.
Is there any hope that this man who has given so much to the world and achieved what no one before him was able to more than dream about? Once again Armstrong’s closest allies are within the scientific community and NASA. But will it prove to be more difficult for a man who walked first on the moon and achieved the unachievable to then overcome the chains of bureaucracy and win the hearts and minds of the people one last time in ensuring NASA’s new space programs achieve ignition? Or will he find that mankind’s giant leaps forward stopped with his humble footsteps across the Lunar surface? A long time ago, arriving on the moon was a cliche phrase that spoke to an achievement which was unattainable or impossible to overcome. And yet in these past 50 years have we grown so blase about our own achievements that we are destined never to take that continuing journey outward into a universe that dwarfs our own simple existence on Earth?