(via TopicFire. By Jean-Louis Santini)
High-profile critics fear President Barack Obama’s commercial overhaul of human spaceflight is going nowhere and could mark the end of half a century of US supremacy among the stars and planets.
“We will have no American access to, and return from, low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for an unpredictable length of time in the future,” Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, warned lawmakers at a recent hearing.
The end of the space shuttle era has left America’s human spaceflight program in an “embarrassing” state, Armstrong said, arguing that NASA needs a stronger vision for the future and should focus on returning humans to the Moon and to theInternational Space Station.
With the US space shuttle program now mothballed after its last flight in July, the United States is forced to depend on Russia’s Soyuz capsules to ferry astronauts to the orbiting research laboratory until at least 2015.
Obama canceled the Constellation program that aimed to return humans to the Moon by 2020 and called on NASA to instead focus on new, deep-space capabilities to carry people to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by 2030.
NASA is counting on the private sector to develop a shuttle alternative at the least possible cost within the next five years.
But many experts doubt that the firms, most of which have little space experience, can step up to the challenge.
“I don’t think any of the ISS partners looks at what we are doing in the US with commercial cargo and crew and feels very confident,” Space Policy Institute director Scott Pace told AFP.
“So there is a great gap between the aspirations of the policy and the actual capabilities that exist now.”