We just lost the Moon

Space. The Final Frontier.

These are the voyages of the Starship….. Terminated?

What if there had been no Apollo program? What if President Kennedy had not been assassinated; if his presidency had simply turned lackluster; if he had faltered in the polls and lost an election. What if the next president had cancelled the Apollo program for budgetary reasons?

Seems impossible to imagine now: a world without the infamous Apollo 8 Earthrise image that inspired the global environmentalism movement, and no Apollo 11 lunar landing heralding the greatness of the human spirit.

Those of us under-40 have no memory of the lunar landings. Our dreams for great space exploration lived in NASA’s Constellation program – our Return to the Moon, to Mars, and Beyond. Our dedication and focus continued to be inspired by Kennedy’s words: “We choose to go to the moon…and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

By now you’ve heard the news. President Obama’s proposed FY11 Budget terminates the NASA Constellation Program. When the aging Space Transportation System AKA Shuttle program ends later this year, the United States will be completely Earthbound, with no vehicle in active development in which to return to space and the Station.

We knew it was coming. We could see the writing on the walls. Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin may have introduced Orion as “Apollo-on-steroids” but around here it was not so affectionately called “Apollo-on-Food Stamps.” Constantly under-budgeted, the teams did their best in building the next heavy lifting rocket and crew exploration vehicle to supply the Station and offer us a return to the Moon and Mars.

The Augustine report released last fall addressed the crux of the issue with sobering words. “Space operations become all the more difficult when means do not match aspirations. Such is the case today. The human spaceflight program, in the opinion of this Committee, is at a tipping point where either additional funds must be provided or the exploration program first instituted by President Kennedy must be abandoned at least for the time being,”

Current NASA Administrator, Charlie Bolden, a Shuttle veteran, choked up while speaking to reporters on Tuesday, saying “To people who are working on these programs, this is like a death in the family,” All week, Twitter conversations about the termination of Constellation capture the various emotions as workers experience the stages of grief, face uncertain futures and prepare for massive layoffs expected this summer.

  • Hubby said atmosphere at work today was like being at a funeral.
  • Co-worker told us his friend at KSC Fire Dept said they responded to 12 anxiety attacks after Constellation cancellation
  • 40k US jobs lost with Constellation program.
If you’re not very familiar with Constellation and the amazing progress that’s been made in the past five years, watch this video that being passed around via twitter by NASA supporters. (While the beginning is dramatic, it gets peppy at 1:28 and is worth watching the entire 8+ minutes, especially if you’re into rockets.)

These are my neighbors. My friends. My colleagues. It affects every one of us here.

“We just lost the moon.” – Tom Hanks (as Jim Lovell) Apollo 13.