Buzz Aldrin, Apollo astronaut, Moonwalker, and veteran of the Gemini Program, has issued a lengthy statement criticizing NASA for being on "The wrong track" and essentially the wrong side of a whole heaping big pile of issues. You can read it here http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/air_space/4322647.html?page=1 but in gist,
* he talks about his role in the early development of the Shuttle Program, which he accuses of being spendthrift (It was, they blew tens of millions of dollars running down blind alleys that they knew were dead ends from the outset, they chased a pipe dream they knew would never match up with their stated goals, and *Still* managed to deliver a flying coffin).
* He accuses the Ares/Constellation program of being fundamentally wrongheaded (I'm not sure I'd personally go that far, but I do have some very serious concerns about its safety, and from the getgo it's felt a day late and a dollar short to me).
* He slams the five-year (minimum) period between the retirement of the shuttle and the introduction of the Orion, during which the US will have no manned access to space. (I say 'minimum' because these things always run long - the Shuttle was supposed to go in to service in 1978, it didn't actually fly until 1981, and also because Obama has talked about "Postponing" the program by an additional five years to free up money for other things, so, very likely, we're looking at the end of the US manned space program. Period.)
* He suggests we rely on international cooperation to get back to the moon and mars, rather than going it alone (I mostly disagree with this, not because of patriotism, but rather because we did our best work in space when we were *competing* with the Soviets. Peaceful competition is a wonderful thing. Cooperation is a fine thing also, but it's hardly as sexy, now is it?)
* He lays out his plans for getting to mars.
* He openly states that NASA's current space agenda, "The Vision for Space Exploration" (AKA "Project Constellation") "Will never get us to Mars."
I love Buzz, he's a brilliant man, a national hero, a national treasure, my absolute favorite manic/depressive, and he still throws a hell of a right hook (Remember 4 years ago when he decked that fat UFO Conspiracy jackass who was threatening him in a hotel lobby in Tennessee?), and 95% of the stuff he says here makes perfect sense. On the down side: There's little defined mention of colonization, this is mostly a scientific research thing, which I think has been a hallmark lack of vision in both the US, Soviet, Russian, and Chinese programs, but, eh. I suppose you have to crawl before you walk. And we haven't even bothered to do that much in a hell of a long time. And soon, very soon, we'll no longer even be able to. Even so, it's disappointing that what mention of colonization there is centers on Mars which - let's be fair - is completely inimical to life and it's unlikely humans could even reproduce there. There's no mention of LaGrange colonies, which are far more likely to be a safe, viable frontier for humanity.
Oh well.This is the biggest "Out of the closet: NASA sucks" statement since Storey Musgrave retired and slammed the shuttle.
Worth checking out, and worth discussing! If *you* were running NASA, or some fictional equivalent, what would you do differently? The same? Why?