NASA's Future Disappoints Retired Astronaut

NASA employees and people connected with the space program are still shocked over the president's plan to scrap a return to the moon. Retired Astronaut Gene Cernan is the last man to walk on the moon and says he believes the U.S. must go back. Laurie Johnson reports.

Gene Cernan went to space three times, including his final mission as commander of Apollo 17, when he became the last man to set foot on the moon.

That was in 1972. Now almost 40 years later, Cernan says going to the  moon and beyond is still relevant.

"Space program is not a gift to anybody, it's not an entitlement, it's an investment. Probably one of the best investments this country has made not just in the future of the country itself, but in technology, in science, in education."

Cernan says after the moon landings, he believed NASA would have astronauts on Mars by the turn of the century. Instead, he says his glass is half empty.

"Because the President's budget, right now takes the United States of America out of the manned spacecraft business. We talk about developing technology — you gotta have a reason, you gotta have an incentive to develop technology. Without the dream, there's no technology, there's no reason to develop it."

Although President Obama actually increased NASA's budget, it does require the agency to shift away from space exploration.

"Quite frankly, I'm a little disappointed, a little concerned about where we may go as a nation into the future."

Cernan says NASA administrators are putting a positive spin on the loss of the Constellation program. NASA will retire the space shuttle at the end of this year. After that, the space agency has no plans to develop new vehicles for space exploration.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...