Astronauts: War of Opinion

Astronaut Jack Schmitt

Buzz Aldrin’s February 25 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Trading the Moon for Mars, elicited reader letters, mostly…no, almost universally negative.

Apparently, we were not the only ones who thought Aldrin’s piece doesn’t push America’s space program in the right direction. So did Apollo 17’s Jack Schmitt, to which he responded:

Let’s Go Back to the Moon and to Mars and Beyond

Buzz Aldrin has actually traded the moon for not going to Mars. Further, he would cede the moon, its resources and human settlement to China, and leave Russia in control of our future access to Earth-orbit. NASA and the Congress’s Constellation Program, which the president proposes to cancel, was conceived, first and foremost, as a Mars exploration program. A return to the moon represents exactly what a Mars initiative needs to develop—the required launch vehicles, spacecraft technology, biomedical foundations, operational procedures and generational expertise. Using the moon as a highly beneficial step toward Mars gives us time to understand how to actually get there and land through its thin atmosphere. In the process of preparing for Mars by returning to the moon, great benefits also will accrue to science and to building the foundations for independent human settlements on both bodies. To paraphrase Mr. Aldrin, having the experience of walking on the moon’s surface on the last Apollo mission, I think the president made the wrong call.

Americans need a clear and specific goal, enough dollars, youthful motivation, and competent and courageous leaders to do great things for liberty and the nation. The president’s proposed abandonment of the Constellation Program in favor of open-ended technology development provides none of these essential ingredients. With his ongoing retrenchment and politicization of NASA, the president is signaling to the young and the world that the U.S. has withdrawn from the future of humankind in space.

Mr. Aldin’s characterization of the president’s budget as a “bold initiative” would be laughable if it did not represent such an abysmal lack of understanding of the consequences of this proposed retreat from American greatness.

Harrison H. Schmitt

Albuquerque, N.M.

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