August 29th, 2012
04:43 PM ET

Armstrong's last mission: Bring people back to space

After his great feat of becoming the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong’s career seemed destined for stardom: He played the leading role, along with his peers, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins, in many triumphant parades and awards ceremonies.

But he shied away from the spotlight. After being selected as deputy associate administrator for aeronautics at NASA, he resigned in 1971 to become an aerospace engineer professor at Cincinnati University, where he served until 1981.

After that, Armstrong served as president of aerospace technology companies, Computing Technologies for Aviation and AIL Systems, as well as honorary positions at institutions such as the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the International Astronautical Federation.

He made few public appearances. In 1982 he gave the commencement speech at  Cincinnati University. In 1994 he participated in the 25th anniversary of Apollo 11 mission at the White House with a message that lasted less than a minute. In 2009 he gave a speech during the 40th anniversary of the mission at the United States Capitol.

In 2010, Neil Armstrong returned to the public scene with a specific mission: to discourage budget cuts for the NASA space program.

In 2004, President George W. Bush administration published Vision for Space Exploration, a development plan with the main objective of creating, by 2014, a new vehicle capable of transporting humans beyond the Earth's atmosphere.  It was the first stage of preparation for the return of men to the moon, scheduled at some point between 2015 and 2020, which would open the path for a manned expedition to Mars during the 2020 decade.

The Bush administration estimated that NASA budget would grow from $15 billion in 2009 to $20 billion in 2020, as a result of generous contributions from private investors in mixed projects. However, the economic crisis in 2008 has affected NASA’s budget: In 2010 the money available for the agency was $18.7 billion and its estimated that by 2013 it will be $17.7 billion.

With the arrival of President Barack Obama to the White House in 2009, the U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee began an overhaul of his predecessor’s plans in order to make them mesh with economic reality. As a result of the investigation, in October 2009, the group published the report "Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation"  that delayed Constellation (a program that grouped the initiatives to return to the moon, including an astronaut capsule called Orion and a rocket for heavy loads called Ares V) that were scheduled after 2015. The program, in practice, was canceled. 

In April 2010, Neil Armstrong, along with astronauts James Lovell (who flew on Apollo 8 and was commander of the Apollo 13 mission) and Eugene Cernan (commander of the last moon mission, Apollo 17) signed an open letter in which they said: “It appears that we will have wasted our current ten plus billion dollar investment in Constellation and, equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded,” and they concluded with a call for America to “decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space."

One month later, Armstrong and Cernan presented themselves at the U.S. Senate Committee of Commerce, Science and Transportation to defend the budget for the Constellation program. During his testimony, Armstrong said: “America is respected for its contributions it has made in learning to sail on this new ocean. If the leadership we have acquired, through our investment, is simply allowed to fade away, other nations will surely step in where we have faltered.”

“Shuttle termination and Constellation cancellation will result in widespread breakup of design, manufacturing, test and operating teams that will be expensive and time-consuming to reassemble when they are once again needed,” Armstrong said.

At the end of his speech, the astronaut said,It was asserted that by buying taxi service to Low Earth Orbit rather than owning the taxis, 'we can continue to ensure rigorous safety standards are met.'" He added that private companies' spacecraft, to his knowledge, have not been as rigorously tested for safety as existing rockets have, expressing concern that the U.S. space program under Obama would only use private enterprise to carry people and cargo to space.

Despite Armstrong’s efforts , on June 28, 2010, Obama presented at the White House the document National Space Policy of the United States of America, confirming the administration’s original plans: a focus on unmanned missions, an extension on the lifetime of the International Space Station until the end of the decade, the cancellation of the space shuttle and Constellation programs, and a collaboration with Russia and other private enterprises to send humans into space.

Regarding manned missions, the new politics of space exploration forgot the plans to return to the moon, and proposed to NASA the beginning of work on a manned mission to Mars at some point after 2025.

Neil Armstrong’s death leaves humanity without a pioneer, but also without an idealist who wanted to rescue the spirit of manned space exploration that we have entrusted in robots and satellites, even as other nations, such as China with its Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, aim to take the next big step for humankind in the second half of the decade to come.

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Filed under: People in Orbit
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Eric

    It's simple really, Obama's vision needs serious correction, a second term will reveal that. Mean while we are stuck with paying the Russians( Soviets) to provide taxi service to the ISS, a space station only we could do the heavy lifting for.
    This man is not worthy of his office, I pray each day at night while I gaze upon the moon, he will not be re-elected.

    September 26, 2012 at 1:48 am |
  2. gorge cordovez

    armstrong rest in peace for good... y0ur the first hero in in peace bro....

    September 8, 2012 at 7:05 am |
  3. Concerned American

    Not one flag in my podunk town was at half-mast today. Not the police station, not the post office.

    halfstaff us /date/2012-08-31/

    A lot of the citizens either don't care, or worse, are proud that America is declining...

    August 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  4. ngc1300

    Crappygov, you contend Lunakhod made the tracks? At 6 different widely spaced locations, traversing mountain ranges and thousands of miles in the process? With '60s technology? Get real. Apparently you've watched Capricorn One a few times too many. And Bart Sibrel carries about as much credence as O.J. Simpson.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Bart doesn't take a punch as well as OJ.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
      • Wendel

        Unfortunately you are correct about the hotel rteriuqmenes. Hotels require at least one adult to be registered to each room rented. Depending on the hotel, the adult either needs to be 18 or 21 (or older). Any reputable hotel will require a photo ID at check-in. There really isn't a way around this. Also, many hotels also require a major credit card to cover incidentals.

        October 11, 2012 at 3:21 am |
  5. Kane

    Did Armstrong confess at the very end that he or anyone else never really went to the moon?

    August 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Marowit

      Have you ever admitted that you don't know jack?

      August 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
      • crappygovernment

        It's all from NASA, that's not 3rd party. Why do they give us much better photos of way further away Mars than the Moon anyway? Tell the other senior citizens about this stuff, please.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
      • Judas Priest

        Crappygovernment, can you read? Are you capable of translating characters into words, and do you know what those words mean?

        August 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Have you confessed yet to stealing our oxygen, and occupying three good dimensions that could be better used by a potted plant? I'd call you a moron but I'm not sure you could pronounce it.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
      • crappygovernment

        I don't want kids lied to like we were about fanciful manned space trips to other worlds in 1969.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
      • Judas Priest

        So you spread more lies that have been debunked dozens, hundreds of times. Now do it for a buck and you'll rival your idol Siebrel.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Network

      The martians are coming to get you. Better go put your foil hat back on.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Eric

      Your one of those flat earther's aren't you? I have touched a moon rock at the National Air and Space Museum in the Smithsonian in D.C. The distinct crystalline structures are unlike any on earth. And contain minerals that have never been found on earth. So hang up your stirrups cowboy. And look up the mineral content of the moon rocks that were brought back. Some people just like to troll the web, I'm not one of them. By the way do you deny our many space efforts successes? Or the Russians?

      September 26, 2012 at 2:03 am |
  6. storymagination

    I don't see any comments here about what the public wants. Let me say first that I've always supported space exploration – human or robot. But, I'm not sure the public does. I don't see the sparkle in the eyes of people I saw in the 60s and 70s. There is no engagement with the public. Perhaps some of the sparkle has gone off the program because of the participation and success of some other countries. Perhaps Charles Bolden out to try more public outreach. I don't know the answer but, I know that if the public was asked to vote on a budget for space, I expect it would be so small it wouldn't cover our food budget on the international space station.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • John

      Unfortunately you are correct. Most of the public would much rather that money be spent in the form of welfare, disability, or any other type of check the government will send them each month. U.S. leadership in space and technology was a signal and proof of great achievement by the most intelligent, determined, and superior people. Well, back when we were the most intelligent, determined, and superior. 🙁

      August 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
      • Jimmy

        The semiconductor was invented in 1949.
        Long before NASA was stated.
        Obviously you you don't keep up with space reserach now being done.
        What do you think they are doing on the ISS, just taking pictures.
        Do your own research before you offering uninformed opinions.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • alpg49

      Yes. Back then, there was plenty of technological spin-off. The semiconductor and biomedical sensor industries were kick-started via NASA research. Now the technological challenge is establishing a permanent port-pottie in space. Unmanned planetary exploration is rich in spin-off. Not so much manned missions.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  7. jaimie

    Kudos to all the people who have made it possible for man to reach the moon and beyond. I still hear of people not believing man went to the moon and 911 was set up by the USA. They are all quacks with nothing better to do. Glad these people are not in my group of friends.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  8. Me

    You can ask people to work with you, but you can't make them. When everyone works against you, it's very difficult to make any progress. Seems we still have not gotten past our basic discrimination problems, and the great USA is not ready for a non-white or non-male president.

    You can't work for progress and work against it at the same time. This goes nowhere, and that is where we are now.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  9. Mike S

    I blame the Obama administration for the loss of our country's premium reputation in space. One of the big reasons that I wont vote for him in this next election. We need to resume/rebuild our space exploration program and return this county to its rightful place as the leader in the world. There is no reason why this cant happen ...including budget...if we are going to lay a debt on our childrens shoulders then lets give them something that they can at least see that is worth something...a legacy with benefits that will continue long past their lifetimes.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Paul

      Obama is promoting the correct path to moving America forward in space: having space capabilities come from the lean, efficient private sectot, not the bloated, slow, Need Another Seven Astronauts public sector.

      Armstrong couldn't shake himself from worshipping at the altar of the Big Daddy Government space program. Maybe he had too many friends feeding at that trough.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
      • alpg49

        Exactly right, except for your interpretation of Armstrong's motivation. The original plan for the Shuttle was for NASA to develop it, then turn it over to private contractors. The program never lived up to its billing, and no private company could figure out how to turn a profit operating it. Now Obama has returned to the "ambitious, private-sector" plan from three decades ago.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  10. ERH

    Peralta, one more twit telling you his version of the news as he made it up. He obviously believes in the O'Bozo reality of the economy. And he sees our rightful place in the rear of the dog team, enjoying the view, as leaders from behind.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Djihan

      Space suit and helmet. I reemmber it well. My dear little younger brother (twenty years difference in our ages). Aged six he wanted a space suit and helmet for Christmas and our mother decided that she would buy the suit and we, my new bride and me (married end of October), should buy the helmet. We were broke and to us the helmet cost a fortune, but we did not disobey mother. We would like it to be known that it was us and not Father Christmas who were influential in Bob's future career.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  11. Rik C.

    So Armstrong has issue with the space program being taken over by private industry? If I read his quote correctly, he's worried private industry won't adopt the same safety standards. Translation: cut corners for profit's sake.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  12. The Jackdaw

    I have this nagging feelign that Curiosity will be NASA's last Hurah.....Lets hope private American industry steps up before other countries leave us behind....i'm kidding myself....we are already behind. America be SMRT.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  13. David

    The American Space Program is in the ditch because there is no political will and, more importantly, no public will for it .

    August 30, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      It is hard to root for NASA when we are all busy keeping up with the Kardashians.

      August 30, 2012 at 9:34 am |
      • Judas Priest

        Simple. Send them to orbit to test their new silicone-based reentry insulation.

        August 30, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  14. anon

    where is cincinnati university? is that anywhere near the UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI?

    August 30, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  15. Mark

    All around great article. But as a longtime Bearcats fan, I gotta echo the comments of others.

    It's UC! The University of Cincinnati.

    Go Bearcats!

    But more importantly, Neil Amrstrong, we will miss you. A pioneer, an inspiration. I was not around in 1969, but I hope during my lifetime I get to see another man land on the moon, and perhaps ... perhaps even also on Mars. What a feat that would be.

    And one more note for Armstrong .... from one Boilermaker to another ... Hail, hail to old Purdue!

    August 30, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Austin

      All hail to our old gold and black!

      August 30, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  16. Bill

    It's so refreshing to read about real hero instead of Michael Jackson and Lindsay Lohan.

    August 30, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Amir

      that is the reason we are going downhill .. Scientist and intellect are not getting full respect and coverage

      August 30, 2012 at 10:23 am |
      • Judas Priest

        Sad and sadly true. The culture of stupidity is overwhelmingly dominant now, and it is a culture of denial, of refusal, and of cranial rectosis.

        August 30, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  17. Josh

    Clearly, we have passed the torch of leadership, to another country; China.

    China has not taken it from us, but we gave it quite willingly.

    August 30, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Uncle Sam

      Not just leadership, but economic supremacy. We have allowed free importation of manufactured goods from a country with no environmental regulation, no occupational safety and health regulation, no wage and hour laws, no collective bargaining (i.e. unions). Predictably, domestic manufacturers have not been able to compete and as a result our nation's wealth has been draining away to China and India.

      August 30, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Paul

      China has complained they can't launch to orbit as cheaply as SpaceX can.

      And Armstrong didn't like SpaceX. Incredible.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  18. NealR2000

    First man on the moon plus seven Tour de France wins. The man was a legend.

    August 30, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • John-117

      lol, my fiancee thought the same things. She though Lance Armstrong died.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Judas Priest

      1975: Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?
      1985: Paul McCartney was in a band?
      1995-present: Paul who???
      2025 (inshallah): What? Jesse McCartney died?

      August 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • RF Burns

      Slept right through history class, huh?

      August 31, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  19. Nick

    There will surely be men walking on the moon again, and I predict within this decade. Sadly the next flag that is planted there will not be American!!!! Are we ready to accept this fact?

    August 30, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • Robby Gallagher

      Been there, done that (40+ years ago), no real reason to go back. We should focus on going to Mars . . . more challenging and more interesting.

      August 30, 2012 at 9:40 am |
      • Judas Priest

        The moon would be a good site for permanent development. Staging, assembly, refuelling, eventually repair and manufacture, not to mention testing of the techniques and technology to be used on other bodies, including Mars and outer planet moons.
        But yes dammit, we need to keep reaching. Get your @ss to Mars.

        August 30, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  20. Rich

    The article should have read "University of Cincinnati" not "Cincinnati University" – no such school.

    August 30, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • David


      August 30, 2012 at 9:12 am |
      • Rich

        WGAS back at ya

        August 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  21. Russ

    They forgot a mission that he undertook in late 2010. In Novemberish of 2010 Armstrong , Cernon, and a few others went on a full USO tour to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, and a few other bases giving about 3 hours of life stories including the space missions followed by Q&A time. Even though they said they wouldnt due to time restraints and such they still stayed behind long after they were supposed to in oreder to sign autographs and talk with us Sailors and Soldiers. It was truly a wonderful experiance that nobody will ever be able to have again.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:53 am |
  22. Johan S

    Armstrong was calling for more government investment, yet somehow conservatives want to paint him as one of their own and right wing? You can't have it both ways. The budget cuts for NASA were proposed because of conservatives and their hatred of government run programs. Let's not forget how Nixon gutted NASA's budget. By the way, the first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn is a democrat. And Buzz Aldrin, the guy who went to the Moon along with Armstrong came out in support of Obama's plan.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:07 am |
    • euphewl

      Really. Somehow, by your logic, this becomes a Republican's fault.
      I call Partisan BS!

      August 30, 2012 at 5:38 am |
    • Gene

      Buzz being the only astronaut in favor of the plan. Buzz always wants to be in the spotlight, it's not about what's best for the space program, it's about what's best for Buzz.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:05 am |
      • Suboptimal

        Buzz is a hero along side of Neil, but is also a realist – knowing how many people criticize the investment of tax dollars into space programs and the bi-partisan quicksand that exists in the US today, he's looking for a way to keep the "pilot light" lit so that we don't have a complete loss of capability like we have with the off-shoring of the US electronics manufacturing sector. Once gone, these entire sectors will never return...and if we don't find a way to at least negotiate the space program, it'll be whittled away to nothing in favour of more critical earth bound issues like health care and national security.

        August 30, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • malty

      Government programs cannot all be placed into one bucket. While conservatives generally shy away from large social welfare programs, they tend to embrace investment in technology and exploration (e.g., energy, space, etc). Your generalizations just don't make sense.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:32 am |
      • David

        Don't forget wars...

        August 30, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  23. David

    We will not leave our footprints in the sands of time if we sit down.

    August 30, 2012 at 3:28 am |
    • Nick

      Excellent point!

      August 30, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  24. Phillip Wynn

    The commenters trying to make this all Obama's fault need to step back from our quadrennial obsession/carnival and face the fact that BOTH parties are guilty for starving the space program. Do some research, instead of repeating Fox News propaganda snarls, and you'll quickly see that political support, as well as opposition, regarding the space program cuts across party lines, and ideologies as well, with liberals and Democrats both in support and opposition, and conservatives and Republicans both in support and opposition. It's also an issue where these tiresome, blinkered, narrow political ideologies are completely beside the point. A flourishing American space program requires BOTH big government AND private investment. For God's sake, if we're serious about revitalizing the space program, let's get past these ancient, childish, irresolvable arguments, and use some common sense for a change.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Suboptimal

      Well said and totally agree! Drop the bi-partisan infighting and he-said / she-said mentality. Focus on the important issues for the benefit of people and country and not a party dogma or myopic ideals!

      August 30, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  25. LL

    You are insane.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  26. Jim

    You let the current administration off too easily for canceling so many important space programs. That administration did not cut other programs to "mesh with economic reality." Plain and simple, the president was not a fan of the space program and he cut it without regard for the jobs lost, the opportunities wasted, or the pride of transporting our own personnel o the ISS on our own spacecraft.

    Consider this: a man who stayed out of the limelight and gave only a 1-minute speech on the 25th anniversary of his historic mission (Neil Armstrong) felt so strongly about the continued success of the space program that he emerged from seclusion to testify before Congress.

    President Obama believes that any nation can do what the U.S. has done, so there is no need for the U.S. to do it. I will simply note the irony that the U.S. continued to send men to the moon after Neil & Buzz left – and no other nation has matched that feat.

    August 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • rehabmax

      Now the Space Shuttle engineers are mowing grass and taking out charter fishing boats. Very sad all this talent wasted. NASA survived many ups and downs in the economy and should have been immune to this sort of capricious action by a President. Our heroes are dying off and we have no one to replace them. July 20th, 1969 was the proudest moment for the World. I fear we will never again have such a moment.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:12 am |
      • Brent

        When a country prides itself on national achievements, the very last thing anyone needs to do is cancel subsequent programs that would take us to the next level....such as back to the moon and then Mars. If Columbus had that problem, someone else would have found China. The Obama space program is just one example of his many leadership failures as President.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:10 am |
      • euphewl

        Where will we get our highly trained astronauts when we finally once again have a space program?

        I agree rehabmax – we are losing vital human resources, the experience and knowledge we had assembled in NASA largely disbanded.. it's not something you can just simply pick up and go with once we're ready again.
        Decades of training – laid off.

        It's a shame. Damage that will take a long time to correct – when we one day do pick up the space program again.

        August 30, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • Paul

      You let the current administration off too easily for canceling so many important space programs.

      Obama didn't cancel the shuttle, he just signed the paperwork. The shutdown had already been well underway in the previous administration; production of long lead time items (like external tanks) had already been shut down and would have been expensive to start up again.

      The problem with the shuttle was its enormous expense. The whole program was a failure, in the sense that it failed to achieve the goal - routine, economical access to space - that had justified it in the first place. The saddest thing about the shuttle program was not that it was shut down, but that it went on as long as it did. Expendable rockets, like those from SpaceX, are FAR less expensive per unit mass of payload.

      Obama DID cancel the Constellation program, but he had excellent reasons for doing so. The program was an even worse trainwreck than the shuttle. Time to first flight was receding at a rate greater than one year per year. And even if the program had delivered vehicles, they would unsafe (if manned, particularly the Aries 1) and uneconomical. The commission he put together to investigate the program concluded that even if the vehicles were delivered to NASA by the Rocket Fairy tomorrow, they'd have to be abandonded, since they'd be far too expensive to operate.

      Of course there was a baklash against this. Lots of people feed at the trough of these government programs. They're basically aerospace welfare. That doesn't mean you have to be an idiot and believe the vacuous propaganda they put out to justify their phoney baloney jobs.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  27. Chris

    The government more or less follows what society wants. Today we in the US, as a nation spend more for cell phone ring tones then on missions to Mars. That just shows where people's priorities are. Funding for NASA's programs pretty much follows these priorities.

    August 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  28. Uthor

    No one realized how effective and advanced robots would become. It's odd, considering how much robotics were equal to space explorations as a vision of the future.

    In many cases, sending a human animal, with all its weaknesses and needs into space does not make much sense. It's very expensive. Given our current economic situation, it makes most sense to continue to see robots as the way we might continue to explore space and our universe.

    Sending humans into space (other than experiments just outside of our Earth atmosphere) now seems vainglorious.

    There will come a time. But it isn't now.

    August 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  29. Pietr

    Anyway, Godspeed Mr Armstrong.

    August 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  30. James

    Space International Station??? Do you guys read your articles before you publish them?

    August 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  31. Annie

    The University of Cincinnati, not Cincinnati University.

    August 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm |


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