Friday, July 22, 2011

No hoax: Moon landing stands as NASA's finest hour

As Atlantis rolled to a stop on its Florida landing strip, ending the space shuttle fleet’s 30-year run, the atmosphere around NASA is filled with uncertainty.
Image: "Moon Shot"
Open Road Integrated Media
"Moon Shot" recounts the story of the early space effort. NBC News correspondent Jay Barbree has updated the book, written with astronauts Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton as co-authors, for the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. and Soviet spaceflights.

It's not like it was 42 years and a day ago, at the time of America’s highest space triumph. That’s when Neil Armstrong took humankind’s first steps on the moon. The only thing for sure following Atlantis’ farewell flight is that most members of its launch team will be out of a job.

Critics say NASA is in shambles. They say foot-dragging and indecision by the Obama administration has left America with no defined mission in space. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, a veteran astronaut himself, strongly disagrees. "I’m not about to let human spaceflight go away on my watch," he says.

Despite the dithering, private companies could have Americans flying in their commercial spacecraft by 2015, and Bolden says test flights aimed at sending astronauts to deep space on NASA spaceships could begin in 2016 or 2017.

Back in 1969, the scene at America’s spaceport was clearly different: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s walk on the moon represented the height of prestige for America’s space program. The country was first. Americans were beating the Russians. A decade-long race to put a human on another world had ended.

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