The Big Three networks all recognized the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's historic orbital spaceflight on their evening newscasts on Monday. Both NBC and CBS highlighted how there's "no certainty when the U.S. will launch astronauts again, [and] Glenn worries America may be losing its edge." But the networks failed to mention that President Obama put the decades-old endeavor in limbo, which led to the unemployment of thousands of technicians.
Brian Williams concluded his report on NBC Nightly News by noting how "it irks Senator Glenn that the manned space program is now idle. The Shuttle program is over, and the only ride available into space for American astronauts is the Russians, the former enemy that [he] was chasing into space 50 years ago today."
Correspondent Bill Plante ended his report on CBS Evening News on a similar note, and included a soundbite from the former Marine fighter pilot himself:
BILL PLANTE (voice-over): With the end of the Space Shuttle program, and no certainty when the U.S. will launch astronauts again, [John] Glenn worries America may be losing its edge.
JOHN GLENN, ASTRONAUT: I hope we keep this American curiosity, this quest for the new and the unknown that has led this country into leadership in the world.
PLANTE: Fifty years on from his three orbits around the globe, John Glenn is still looking to the future.
On ABC, correspondent John Donvan recounted the "big moment for America" and how Glenn "put America's confidence back on track," but didn't mention the astronaut's criticism of the current status of the U.S.'s manned space program.
In a February 14 article in the New York Times, writer John Noble Wilford gave further detail of Glenn's arguments for manned spaceflight:
Glenn said he was concerned that since the final shuttle flight last July, the United States must depend on the Russian Soyuz space vehicles for ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station....In a meeting with President Obama two years ago, Mr. Glenn made his case for continuing shuttle flights...for several more years, contrary to President George W. Bush's policy that a new generation of boosters and spacecraft would be developed with the savings from the cancellation of shuttle operations. "The president didn't disagree with any of my arguments," he [Glenn] recalled. "He said we just don't have the money."
In addition to this, three Apollo-era astronauts -- Neil Armstrong; Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 fame, and Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the man and a former ABC News space contributor -- wrote a letter to the President in April 2010, criticizing his administration's decision to cancel the Bush-era Constellation program, labeling the move "devastating," and arguing that "without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity." In addition to Armstrong, Lovell, and Cernan, veteran NBC News space correspondent Jay Barbree signed the letter.
It's curious, to say the least, that the ABC, CBS, and NBC, whose liberal leanings are well documented, would not mention these details in their reporting commemorating Glenn's Mercury spaceflight, and as they gear up to begin the coverage of the general election later this year.