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Apollo Astronaut Tom Stafford: The Space Program Has ‘Lost 16 Years’

Oct. 21, 2017 (EIRNS)—"Righteous Apollo-era anger," is how Popular Mechanics writer Joe Pappalardo describes a recent talk given by legendary astronaut Gen. Tom Stafford (ret.) at the Perot Musuem of Nature and Science in Dallas. Stafford flew two pre-Apollo Gemini flights, and the Apollo 10 mission, which was a dress rehearsal for the lunar landing. He commanded the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission with Soviet cosmonauts in 1975.

"We lost 16 years," said the 87-year-old astronaut, referring to President Bush’s 2004 announcement of a Moon-Mars program, which was never funded, and President Obama’s cancellation of the Constellation program. In fact, as Pappalardo recounts, as far back as 1990, Stafford led a study for President George H.W. Bush that detailed a Moon-Mars program, which the Congress rejected. And President Clinton ended any discussion about a return to the Moon.

Stafford was very critical of the fact that NASA no longer dictates the design of spacecraft, with close supervision of the contractors. Stafford is not impressed, says Pappalardo, with the companies that are now given that responsibility. "The issue is safety and trust," he said. "It’s like President Reagan said: Trust but verify."

Recalling that in five years, NASA built the launch facility, spacecraft, and rockets to take astronauts to the lunar surface, Stafford asked, "Why can’t we? Why can’t we do it again?"