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Is America's Vision of Space Travel Over? [Poll]

Monday was the 50th anniversary of the first American - astronaut John Glenn - to orbit Earth; today if an American wanted o go into space, they would need to be transported by the Russians.

On the 50th anniversary of becoming the first American to orbit earth, former astronaut John Glenn said NASA is in a difficult position because the space agency must rely on the Russians to transport Americans to the International Space Station.

On Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn piloted the Friendship 7 into orbit around Earth. He circled the globe three times before returning to a hero’s welcome. He later served in the U.S. Senate for 24 years and made a bid for president. He was the third American in space, but the first to orbit the planet.

The Soviet Union put the first human into space and into orbit, in 1961. But in the years of the Cold War, it was a matter of national pride for the United States to catch up, and Glenn was among the first group of astronauts, the Mercury Seven, celebrated in fact and fiction for having The Right Stuff, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Glenn, 90, took part in a forum at Ohio State University to mark the anniversary and discuss NASA. He was critical of the decision to end the U.S. shuttle program that carried astronauts to the International Space Station.

"NASA is in a difficult position today, quite frankly.  It's sort of a hold-your-breath period for NASA as to what's going to happen, because the only way we go into space now, as it's already been mentioned here today, was to go over to Russia and we pay them.  We buy seats for them to put our people into space on the Soyuz.  And this comes at a real price because what we cannot do then is send our people up with all the equipment and everything they need to our own space station, which was developed just to do this kind of continuing research, the research in this new environment of space," Glenn said according to Voice of America.

At 77, Glenn became the oldest person to fly in space, in 1998.

President Obama and his administration, according to a report on CNN is behind the space program despite the grounding of the shuttle program currently.

"I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future." Obama said in 2010.

The obama administration has outlined a program including a multibillion-dollar modernization of Kennedy Space Center, expansion of private-sector and commercial space industries and eventually human travel to Mars.

"By the mid-2030s I believe we can send people to orbit Mars and bring them safely back to Earth," Obama said. Landing on Mars will follow, and "I expect to be around to see it." reported CNN.

At the Christa McAuliffe Regional Public Charter School, which has students from Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton, Natick and Framingham among other communities, eighth graders recently presented their space projects, including projects on exploration of Mars. The school, which is named after Framingham native and the first teacher in space who died tragically when Challenger exploded, focuses its 8th grade science curriculum on space exploration.

Radioman February 21, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Exploration of all that surrounds us is a human trait. Americans have played no small part in the exploration of the world, and space. The curious nature of humans is something innate in all peoples, but enhanced considerably by those living in a free country. Americans are arguably the most free people of the planet, have the financial capabilities and the desire to continue the exploration of space, and although the future may hold scaled back (dollar-wise) missions, it is inevitable Americans will lead the way.
Ed Ward February 21, 2012 at 08:05 PM
The Obama Administration already is reviving the Space Program with the Commercial Access To Space (COTS) Program. Unfortunately Republicans in the House cut the program in almost half, just as a COTS participant (SpaceX) is about to launch it's first craft to the International Space Station. The Bush Vision for Manned Access to Space floundered, behind schedule and over budget. It's first launch cost $475 million, and launched a dummy payload to an altitude of 25 miles.... not very impressive. Barring the unforseen, companies like SpaceX, Bigelow, Sierra Nevada and others will bring cheaper access to space than the aerospace giants like Boeing and Lockheed ever could. It could be a big leap forward for us. I wish them luck.
Chris Hyman February 22, 2012 at 03:58 PM
I definitely think we're going in a better direction now. Critics of the new direction don't seem to take into account that this administration has routinely asked for more money for NASA than Congress has been willing to give it, and that it was the Vision Space Exploration (put forth by Bush in 2004) that mandated the shut down of the shuttle program by 2010. This admin actually extended the shuttle program by two flights. The VSE itself was not a bad idea, but was neverly properly planned or funded. The new direction should realize many of the goals of the VSE, and actually put us in a position of NEVER being without manned space transport in the future, and we will have multiple options. It wouldn't surprise me if this new approach actually gets us back to the moon sooner than the VSE's Constellation / Ares plan would have.
James Feudo February 22, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I can't speak to the political aspect of this (I haven't followed it that closely), however I feel like these private ventures are making a lot of headway. The cool part about it is the incentive - the problems that people are trying to solve can result in technologies & breakthroughs might be applied to everyday life. For example, breakthroughs in lighter materials and aerodynamics can be applied to cars and other vehicles. I'm pretty excited about what will happen in the coming decades. James

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