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Astronaut families press NASA's case with administration

By Ed O'Keefe

A group memorializing astronauts killed in the line of duty and their families has invoked their names in an effort to convince the Obama administration to drop its planned changes to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The group's outreach comes as lawmakers and other space advocates have called on the White House to continue with plans to return Americans to the moon by 2020.

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation, an educational foundation honoring the 24 Americans killed during space mission missions, said altering NASA's future would run counter to their sacrifice.

"All of the astronauts who have flown subsequently would tell you that they succeeded by standing on the shoulders of their fallen colleagues," AMF Chairman Michael J. McCulley wrote in a letter sent to President Obama. "Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins were only able to fly Apollo 11 to the moon after we lost Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee on a simulated countdown to Apollo 1."

"In order to honor those astronauts and their families who have sacrificed for all of the benefits of human exploration, and to allow Americans continued pride in our space program, we urge you to vigorously support uninterrupted continuation of U.S. human space flight systems, including the Space Shuttle, and to maintain NASA’s leadership in space exploration," McCulley wrote in his letter sent last Friday that was first released publicly on Wednesday.

AMF's outreach is less harsh than recent comments by former astronauts and lawmakers from space states, including Alabama, Florida and Texas. But it's part of a growing chorus of scientists, space buffs and business leaders concerned with the White House's plans to kill NASA's Constellation program and essentially privatize future space transportation efforts.

Former U.S. senator and astronaut Harrison Schmitt told The Post this week that Obama's plans are "bad for the country."

"This administration really does not believe in American exceptionalism," Schmitt said.

President Obama will host a summit on the future of American space exploration in Florida next month in response to the growing criticism.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 10, 2010; 3:34 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Agencies and Departments  
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Spaceflight was a mistake when we could have been focussing on 2000+ page health care takeovers.

Posted by: member5 | March 10, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I believe it is Obama's plan to create a multi-government (multi-country) space travel task force. This task force would share all space research and would participate in all space travel. Cost of the task force would be shared by all participating countries/governments.

Beware, this could be the start of space and technological socialism?

Posted by: lmp2649 | March 10, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Obama's lack of support for manned space exploration is no different than the 60's leaders of the civil rights movement's opposition to the moon program...they are cut from the same cloth. A protest of Apollo 11 was lead by Ralph Abernathy on the eve of the launch (

"On the eve of the Apollo 11 launch, July 15, 1969, Abernathy arrived at Cape Canaveral with several hundred members of the poor people to protest spending of government space exploration, while many Americans remained poor. He was met by Thomas O. Paine, the Administrator of NASA, whom he told that in the face of such suffering, space flight represented an inhuman priority and funds should be spent instead to "feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, and house the homeless.""

It is incredible that Obama's budget request for NASA is $19B (out of a $3.8T budget), yet he is increasing discredited ( pre-school programs by $9.3B to a total of $34B per year. These pre-school programs amount to nothing more than government paid day care for his constituents, which is the real focus of his efforts.

Clearly, Obama's claim that the country cannot afford the Constellation Program is disingenuous, at best.

Posted by: Independent62 | March 11, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

If cancelling space exploration puts one more child through pre-school, isn't it worth it?

Posted by: member5 | March 11, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if anyone, no matter what agency, group, family, business, town, city, country, planet or whatever, has looked at where we would be TODAY if we didn't stop the Apollo (Moon) prodject. Would we have a base on the moon? Would we be shooting for Mars by now? What? My theory is that we either have or be in the process of constructing a base on the moon.

Give me your prediction on where we would be today if the Apoll or some sort of moon prodject continued.

Posted by: mjj4677 | March 16, 2010 1:52 AM | Report abuse

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