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Astronauts’ views on Obama space plan are light years apart

The MoonEarlier this month, President Obama outlined his vision for the future of NASA, which generated quite a bit of controversy. The new plan halts the development of Bush’s $97 billion Constellation program, which was aimed at returning to the moon as a stepping stone to a manned Mars landing in the 2030s. The change has polarized the space community and pitted astronaut against astronaut. Most striking is the emerging divide between the first man on the moon and the second.

Neil Armstrong has been critical of the Obama plan, which would rely on private industry for near-term space flight. In an open letter last week, the astronaut called the cancellation “devastating” and warns that without a plan for our own heavy lift rocket, the U.S. may be on “a long downhill slide to mediocrity.”

Buzz Aldrin, whose moonwalk came 15 minutes after Armstrong’s, weighed in on the side of the White House. He supports “a near-term focus on lowering the cost of access to space and on developing key, cutting-edge technologies that will take us further and faster — while expanding our opportunities for exploration along the way.”

So where do other famous U.S. astronauts stand on the president’s plan?

Jim Lovell
“Houston, we’ve had a problem”
Having circled the moon twice, Lovell is most famous for safely returning Apollo 13 to earth in NASA’s greatest “successful failure.”
AGAINST: Co-signed the letter with Armstrong, which warns the plan “destines our nation to become one of the second or even third-rate stature.”
Neil Armstrong
“That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon in 1969.
AGAINST: Armstrong’s open letter warns that “the US may be on “a long downhill slide to mediocrity.”
Sally Ride
“All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.”
The first American woman and then-youngest American in space, Sally Ride has written several books encouraging young people to study science.
FOR: Ride calls the plan “a bold strategic shift that will enable NASA to return to its roots”
Bill Nelson
“We were on the moon 40 years ago. We need to get out into deep space.”
Now the senior senator from Florida, Nelson was a payload specialist on the shuttle Columbia when he was in the House of Representatives.
FOR (mostly): Nelson was initally against the plan but was heartened by Obama’s stated commitment to creating heavy-lift rockets in the near future.
Buzz Aldrin
“Developing key, cutting-edge technologies to take us further, faster, is just what our nation needs.”
Aldrin was the second person to set foot on the moon. He also has a mean right cross.
FOR: Aldrin believes the space program was long overdue for a change. He says, “We have already been to the moon — some 40 years ago.”

All Photos Courtesy NASA

Correction: The Constellation program was estimated to cost $97 billion through 2020, not $97 million (a real bargain), as stated in an earlier version of this story.