On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams reported the Apollo 11 astronauts' meeting with President Obama to mark the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, but failed to mention that only photo journalists were permitted to cover the event. Williams spotlighted Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins's visit to the White House, and how "with them in spirit in the Oval Office today was the late, great Neil Armstrong."
During his minute-long news brief, the anchor also pointed out a former NASA administrator's warning about the current state of the U.S. manned spaceflight program: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
BRIAN WILLIAMS: They are old men now, but 45 years ago this week, they were the young astronauts on their way home from the Moon. That's Michael Collins on the left. He piloted the command module. Next to him is Buzz Aldrin, second man on the Moon. With them in spirit in the Oval Office today was the late, great Neil Armstrong. They were the three men who won the space race for the United States, and answered President Kennedy's challenge to conquer the moon.
Then, there's this from the former NASA administrator, Michael Griffin. He says Russia has the U.S. in a – quote, 'hostage situation,' because since we dismantled the main – manned space program's ability to launch Americans into space, the Russians are now the only way American astronauts get around – a far cry from the days of Apollo 11. Griffin is worried tensions with Russia could ground our astronauts. And people wondered why just yesterday, Vladimir Putin held a photo op touring the Russian space program. Was it a tweak to their American passengers?
Back in May 2014, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced that his country would end exports of the rocket engines that the U.S. uses for many launches of military and reconnaissance satellites (the U.S. uses the Russian-made RD-180 engine on its Atlas V rocket). This move was in response to the U.S. imposing sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Crimea. After Rogozin's announcement, congressional and military leaders pushed for the development of a domestic replacement for the Russian engines. However, in mid-June, the Obama administration "released a policy statement...calling for a more measured approach to the propulsion predicament," according to Stephen Clark of the Spaceflight Now blog.
On Tuesday, Dave Boyer of the Washington Times detailed that the White House Correspondents' Association filed a complaint against the Obama administration for "shutting out some members of the press from a meeting between President Obama and the surviving Apollo 11 astronauts." Boyer noted that "CBS News reporter Major Garrett, representing the...Association, informed White House press secretary Josh Earnest of the formal complaint at the daily press briefing. Mr. Garrett said the decision to allow only still photographers to record the meeting as a photo-op 'limits television coverage' of a newsworthy event."