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Panel on Obama's Space Exploration Speech

Panel on Obama's Space Exploration Speech

By Special Report With Bret Baier - April 15, 2010

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space than I am.

(APPLAUSE)

But we've got to do it in a smart way. And we can't just keep on doing the same old things that we've been doing and thinking that somehow is going to get us where we want to go.

EUGENE CERNAN, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Everything in that budget is undefined. There is no focus. You are not going to get in space in three years or build a manned spacecraft. You have all the infrastructure in mission control, simulators, the training - it doesn't make sense to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: President Obama down at the Kennedy Space Center today announcing increase in the NASA's budget over the next five years of $6 billion, but also saying the Constellation Program in place will be canceled. To do that, that costs $2 billion.

Where are we in the space program and what the president is talking about? We're back with the panel. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: We are seeing the abolition of the manned space program. When Neil Armstrong speaks out, that is an event. This is a guy who is the most self-effacing American hero in our history. He could have been Lindbergh and he became J.D. Salinger.

And now he speaks out in an open letter together with Cernon, the last guy that walked on the moon, and James Level, the commander of Apollo 13. And they say the program that Obama has cancelled is essentially the end of man in space. It turns NASA into an R&D agency for pie in the sky ideas like having humans on asteroids and ends its role as the agency that actually gets us into space and lower in orbit and back.

Obama spoke about we have done the moon so we are going to do asteroids and Mars. This is total pie in the sky. On what rocket with what space capsule and with what simulators and what training program? There is nothing here of substance.

And when Kennedy committed us "in this decade," as he said, he meant within the presidency he intended to be, he expected he would be president until January 1969. Obama is talking about 2025, 2030. All of this is total speculation.

And what it does is it ends our human dominance in space, which we had for 50 years. We have no way to get into earth orbit. We will have to hitch a ride on Russians who are charging us extraordinary rates and are only going to increase that.

BAIER: We should point out that astronaut Buzz Aldrin is supportive of President Obama's plan.

But here is what Neil Armstrong said, Juan, in the letter. "It appears we will have wasted the current $10 billion plus in constellation and equally importantly we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded," saying that the constellation program would take them to the moon and then onto mars. What do you think?

WILLIAMS: I think that Buzz Aldrin is right. We have been to the moon. It's 40 years ago I guess, or longer that we have been to the moon. I don't know going to the moon is exactly a priority in terms of our spending today being Tax Day. What are we spending tax dollars on?

So the Obama program is much more focused on allowing private enterprise and putting NASA in a position to facilitate private enterprise making use of space and going to places where there will be a return for American people. I think that is a smart move. I think that is the direction the space program needs to go in. It's not a matter of ceding anything to the Russians or the Chinese, not at all. It's about efficient use of our resources to make the best use of trying to go into space and find out exactly why we're there. Not just go there for the sake of yes, we're back on the moon. I don't know that that is worth it at this point. It is worth it if you say there is a reason we are on asteroids or taking people in space or we're able to launch specific satellites that help us in terms of our economic growth.

BAIER: Steve?

HAYES: Juan, the hardcore libertarian for privatization. I'm actually sympathetic to the argument that Juan makes. The problem with what the president has done as he emphasizes a transition, a partial transition to more private use, private space flight, what he has done is increased the budget. The budget doesn't go down.

So if you talk of privatization you need to actually have the other side of that which is less spending on this. Over a decade we're likely to spend $200 billion on NASA. There are things that NASA does well that are important. There are a lot of things that NASA doesn't do well that are not important. I think in time - this won't happen I think under the Obama administration, but it would be nice if we had a top to bottom review of what NASA does and what it's functions are and start to privatize those things that a private market could do better.

BAIER: From a libertarian point of view, $2 billion to shut down constellation? We have already spent a lot on money on the program.

HAYES: But the question is would you spend another $50 billion on a program that's over-budget and wasn't working the way it should have been working?

KRAUTHAMMER: All the private stuff is complete speculation. We're ceding certainty of access into space. We are not going to have it. The Russians will have it. The Chinese will have it.

We spent tens of billions on the space station and spend three decades in constructing it. We're not going to have any way to get there. It's a Russian station and a Chinese station. And we'll look up in a decade and it will be a lunar space on the moon and it's not going to be Americans on it.

 

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