An American hero left the Earth last weekend, and was fondly memorialized in video eulogies by network news media.
Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, and the iconic remarks he made on that first Apollo mission will never be forgotten. While it was appropriate to recall that historic day, Armstrong was always a committed defender of the U.S. space program. He was critical of cutbacks to manned spaceflight instituted by the Obama administration, something the network evening news programs deliberately chose to ignore.
Far from a typical celebrity, Armstrong was reluctant to embrace the spotlight that followed his return. He utilized the benefits of it in his later years to publicly object to NASA’s lack of funding, testifying before the Senate in May 2010 and a House hearing in September 2011.
One would think that the late Neil Armstrong’s objections to America’s declining interest in space exploration would merit a mention, but the decision was made to focus on the distant past and social media reaction.
ABC News correspondent David Muir dug up footage of an interview with Armstrong's parents back in 1969, finishing the segment this way -- “So many of you writing me this weekend on Facebook about where you were that night. And we'll share some of your stories later here.”
CBS News anchor Anthony Mason brought up President Obama’s official reaction to Armstrong’s passing. “Today, President Obama called Armstrong among the greatest of American heroes, not just of his time but of all time,” Mason said, failing to note that the great American had reservations about the canceling of the U.S. space shuttle program prior to the inauguration of its replacement vehicle.
For the time being, American astronauts are hitching expensive rides to space on Russian rockets.
Testifying in front of the House on Sept. 22, 2011, Armstrong took advantage of his last opportunity to voice his concerns to the legislative body in a rare public appearance. These were his words.
America cannot maintain a leadership position without human access to space. After a half century in which Americans were being launched into Earth orbit and beyond, Americans find themselves uncertain of when they can reasonably expect our astronauts to travel to the International Space Station or other off the earth destinations in other than a foreign built and commanded spacecraft.
America must find ways of restoring hope and confidence to a confused and disconsolate work force. The reality that there is no flight requirement for a NASA pilot-astronaut for the foreseeable future is obvious and painful to all who have, justifiably, taken great pride in NASA’s wondrous space flight achievements during the past half century.
Most importantly, public policy must be guided by the recognition that we live in a technology driven world where progress is rapid and unstoppable. Our choices are to lead, to try to keep up, or to get out of the way. A lead, however earnestly and expensively won, once lost, is nearly impossible to regain.