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An Apollo Astronaut’s Anger at NASA’s Lost Decades

An Apollo Astronaut’s Anger at NASA’s Lost Decades

POPULAR MECHANICS – JOE PAPPALARDO/PHOTO CREDIT: NASA

Why one of NASA’s original astronauts says we’ve wasted the last 16 years of crewed spaceflight.

Most of the Apollo astronauts, at one time or another, have voiced grievances at how slowly the American manned spaceflight program has advanced. Why wouldn’t they? Since the end of the focused, breakneck race to the moon during the 1960s and early 70s, NASA lost its ambitious mandate to send humans to explore other worlds. Each new presidential administration had a new plan that required scrapping the old one. And America still hasn’t sent astronauts back to the moon, much less set foot on Mars.

Tom Stafford may have more reason to complain than most. He witnessed the rise and fall of American human spaceflight from the inside, and he’s the one who wrote the original plan to use the moon as a stepping-stone to Mars. At 87, Stafford still has a gleam in his eye as he talks about manned spaceflight. But over the years, his plan has been repeatedly picked up and abandoned as administrations changed. The Trump administration and its Space Council is now talking up the moonshot once more.

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