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Debate over future of US space program -

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Debate over future of US space program

Kim Landers reported this story on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 12:38:00

PETER CAVE: As Americans celebrate the 40th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon, a fierce
debate has erupted over the future of the US space program.

The US space agency NASA - urged on by some of the original Apollo astronauts - plans to put people
back on the moon by 2020. Once there, they could set-up manned lunar bases to help with future
missions to Mars.

But President Barack Obama has put the entire manned spaceflight program under review.

Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: It was the theme from the 1960s Thunderbirds TV show that provided the wake-up call
for astronauts on board the space shuttle Endeavour this morning.

But on this 40th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon, some of the astronauts who manned
the long-ago Apollo missions are lamenting America's loss of space ambition.

Eugene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon in 1972.

EUGENE CERNAN: And I really believed that we'd be back to the moon by the end of that decade and on
our way to Mars by the turn of the century.

KIM LANDERS: President Barack Obama was just a boy when Apollo 11 landed on the moon but he was
clearly pleased to welcome the three astronauts to the Oval Office today.

BARACK OBAMA: To have Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin here beside me is just
wonderful.

KIM LANDERS: But his admiration for the Apollo missions hasn't stopped him from ordering a review
of America's manned spaceflight program.

But the men who pioneered space travel and are the only ones to have walked on the moon, are urging
the US Government to go back to the moon and beyond.

Walter Cunningham flew on Apollo 7. He says a message written by Prime Minister John Gorton, which
was one of dozens left on the moon by the Apollo 11 crew, should provide some inspiration.

WALTER CUNNINGHAM: He says may the high courage and the technical genius which made this
achievement possible be so used in the future that mankind will live in a world in which peace,
self-expression - and this is the one - the chance of dangerous adventure are available to all.

We have allowed our country to turn into a risk-averse society.

KIM LANDERS: John Logsdon is the chair in aerospace history at the National Air and Space Museum in
Washington DC.

JOHN LOGSDON: My own view is that we're not ready to go to Mars and we can be ready sooner to go
back to the moon.

KIM LANDERS: What do you think people should do when we get back to the moon?

JOHN LOGSDON: Well I think we are not done exploring the moon and the six Apollo landings went to a
very limited part of the moon near the equator on the side that faces the earth. So we have not
explored the whole body. I think there is science to be done on the moon. There are people that
believe that there are economically valuable resources that can be extracted from the lunar soil.

KIM LANDERS: Former president George W. Bush set a goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by
2020 and then to later fly on to Mars under the Constellation project, which is estimated to cost
at least $US150 billion.

Charles Duke flew on Apollo 16. He says the cost of America's space program needs to be put in
perspective.

CHARLES DUKE: Less than one penny out of every dollar we send to the Federal Government in income
taxes goes to space.

KIM LANDERS: Meanwhile the space shuttle Endeavour has another week at the international space
station before it returns to Earth.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.