On the eve of the 50th anniv of President Kennedy's historic speech declaring that America will launch a manned mission to the moon, three people wrote an article in USA Today regretting the decline of US space power and how it has drifted away from President Kennedy's space vision.
Kennedy made the speech on May 25,1961 and the article was published on May 24.
Three well known writers are Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the surface of the moon, Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13 and Eugene Cernan, the last man to step on lunar surface.
Quoting the President's address, they say that half a century has passed since Kennedy challenged the American citizenry to do what most thought to be impossible. ``Our efforts enhanced international co-operation with Apollo-Soyuz, the space shuttle and the International Space Station.The compelling fascination of our space achievements among young people spurred their interest in education,'' they wrote.
They were happy that the Constellation programme---a project to revive manned lunar landings and possibly even a human mission to Mars--was developing and enjoyed wide support. But poor funding made the Obama adminstation that it was not viable.
The writers wonder whether the decision to cancel the Constellation programme was because of vested economic interests ``Obama's advisers, in searching for a new and different Nasa-strategy with which the president could be favourably identified, ignored Nasa's operationa mandate and strayed widely from President Kennedy's vision and the will of the American people,'' they regret.
They further regret that the 2012 budget has reduced funding significantly below the authorised amount for both a big rocket and a multipurpose crew vehicle for carrying humans to the moon and beyond..It focusses on the development of rockets and spacecraft by commercial entrepreneurs. They doubt whether these entrepreneurs have the capacity to launch such a mission.
``The response to Kennedy's bold challenge half-century ago has led to America's unchallenged leadership in space. We take enormous pride in all that has been accomplished in the past 50 years. And we have the people, the skills and the wherewithal to continue to excel and reach challenging goals in space exploration,'' they have written.
They say: ``But, today, America'a leadership in space is slipping. Nasa's human spaceflight programme is in substantial disarray with no clear-cut mission in the offing. We will have no rockets to carry humans to low earth orbit and beyond for an indeterminate number of years. Congress has mandated the development of rocket launchers and spacecraft to explore the near-solar system beyond earth orbit. But, Nasa has not yet announced a convincing strategy for their use. After a half-century of remarkable progress, a coherent plan for maintaining America's leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent,'' they have regretted in their article.