Can Apollo Fervor Ever Return?

Times have changed, says Norman Augustine, the retired aerospace executive who is chairing a blue-ribbon panel examining alternative futures for the U.S. human space flight effort. At a press conference today, he reminded reporters that President John F. Kennedy’s call to land humans on the moon was met with a groundswell of support from the public and Congress. But that is an experience, he noted, that has not been repeated since.

Augustine’s reflections may be a sign that the 10-person committee won’t push a bold commitment to an expensive human mission to the Moon, Mars, or an asteroid, when it submits its recommendations to the White House at the end of next month. He stopped well short of outlining what objectives and goals the panel might suggest, but added that “there is a strong sentiment that whatever we do, we have to have a budget that underpins what we do.” Augustine added that “anything else is a disservice.” He did say that the panel is mulling over what role commercial launchers and potential foreign partners might play in a future human space flight effort.  The panel will hold several public meetings across the United States through mid-August.