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Daily View: Obama cancels moon mission

Clare Spencer | 09:10 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

ares-1 rocketPresident Obama has announced plans to mothball America's mission to put another man on the moon. Commentators consider the pros and cons.

Lance Thompson at the conservative blog Minority Report believes that space travel is vital to the American spirit:

"The issue isn't money, because obviously the President doesn't mind spending all that we have, or ever will have. It goes much deeper, into a vital aspect of the American character that Obama will never understand. America started out as a frontier. Americans are drawn to the frontier. America needs a frontier... All we need is a goal. Personal, public, local, or national, the great achievements of Americans fuel our continued progress."

The Times editorial notes space travel is important for the American image:

"His plans will grate in Congress with politicians who see Nasa's manned space programme as key to national pride. It is vital, too, for America's future. President Obama needs to show the world that America knows where it wants to be several decades hence, and has the vision and will to get there."

In the National Review Jeffrey Anderson argues that Obama's horizons are too low:

"Whether it's tax cuts or defense spending; or whether it's the courage, ambition, and sense of wonder that combine to lead great souls to great feats of exploration and discovery; one can surely say this much about Barack Obama: Mr. President, you're no Jack Kennedy"

Clive Cookson at the Financial Times says that moving Nasa over to private funding will mean it will need to be clearer about its aims:

"Is it there mainly as a symbol of permanent human presence in space, pointing to future manned missions to more exciting destinations such as Mars? Or is it a practical base for carrying out research in zero gravity above the Earth's atmosphere? No one seems really to know at the moment."

British space scientist Colin Pillinger in the Guardian looks at what cancelling moon missions could mean for his fellow scientists:

"I hope cancelling the moon mission will in fact accelerate humans going to Mars, not mean that something even more ­inspirational will slip back."

The Times' science editor Mark Henderson puts a positive spin on the story:

"The decision has been condemned as a failure of imagination, the antithesis of audacity and hope. It should more properly be seen as a long overdue triumph of realism. By scaling back manned spaceflight, America will in no way betray its pioneer spirit. It will remain a proud spacefaring nation. It is just that its spacefaring will increasingly be done not by people but by the true pioneers of our age - robots."

Andrew Coates from the UK's Mullard Space Science Lab tells the BBC World Service that stopping missions to the moon is a good idea:

"In terms of the real swashbuckling exploration of the solar system, that has to be done with unmanned probes anyway... In terms of forging ahead and doing the exploration, we are getting beyond the targets of the moon... The manned space flight, to me, is something of a waste."

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Links in full

see alsoLance Thompson | Minority Report | Mooning the American Spirit
National ReviewJeffrey Anderson | National Review | Obama Is No JFK
Financial TimesClive Cookson | Financial Times | No NASA Return to the Moon
TimesTimes | Shooting for the Moon
TimesMark Henderson | Times | Robots are the true pioneers of our age
GuardianColin Pillinger | Guardian | These space mission cuts will cost us our scientists
BBCAndrew Coates | BBC World Service

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