Sen. Rockefeller Tells Neil Armstrong: ‘I Am a Substantial Skeptic of Human Spaceflight’ and America’s Drive to Explore is Not All ‘Glorious’

Nicholas Ballasy

( — Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D.-W.V.) says he is “a substantial skeptic of human spaceflight” and that not all outlets for American exploration are “glorious.”

Rockefeller made his remarks during a hearing last week where astronauts Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, and Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon, testified against President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget because it would cancel NASA’s Constellation manned space program.

“I am not a huge, but I am a substantial, skeptic of human spaceflight,” Rockefeller told Armstrong, Cernan, and Norman R. Augustine, the chairman of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee.

“We’re approximately the same generation, but that’s where I am,” Rockefeller said. “I cannot support going into space as an end in and of itself. I agree with the president that we need a measured, nationally, globally relevant and sustainable human space flight program–not one solely bound by place and time in space.”

Chairman Rockefeller then said to the astronauts, “I want to understand the value of human space flight.”

Cernan responded to Rockefeller by saying that today’s communications technology was born from space exploration.

“The technology that I have in my iPhone today is technology that was given birth to 30, 40, 50 years ago,” said Cernan.

“Exploration drives technology, innovation, not the reverse,” he said. “You can’t lock a group of the most smartest young men and women in the world in a room — engineers, scientists, technicians — and say, ‘go develop technology,’ for what? There has to be a purpose, just like there has to be a purpose in life.”

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