Former Apollo astronauts have expressed dismay at President Barack Obama's decision to cancel the Nasa programme that was intended to return mankind to the Moon. Eugene Cernan, the last man to set foot on the Moon, and Jim Lovell, commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission said they were disappointed by the decision to cancel Nasa's Constellation Moon programme. Mr Lovell warned the decision would have "catastrophic consequences" for US space exploration.
The pair spoke to the BBC at a private event held at the Royal Soceity in London on Friday evening. They were joined by the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong. Mr Lovell said: "Personally I think it will have catastrophic consequences in our ability to explore space and the spin-offs we get from space technology. "They haven't thought through the consequences."
Mr Cernan, who was the last astronaut to return to the Apollo 17 lunar module in 1972 making him the last man to set foot on the Moon, added:"I'm quite disappointed that I'm still the last man on the Moon. "I thought we'd have gone back long before now." "I think America has a responsibility to maintain its leadership in technology and its moral leadership... to seek knowledge. Curiosity's the essence of human existence."
Mr Obama cancelled Nasa's Constellation programme, which was intended to build new rockets and a lander to put astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2020, after stating it was costing too much and was behind schedule. The programme had been approved by former President George W Bush and was expected to provide a stepping stone towards sending humans to Mars for the first time.
Constellation has come under intense criticism as a drain on Nasa's resources and attempts to design a new rocket system that would replace the aging Space Shuttle have been beset with problems. Nasa insists it still intends to send humans back to the Moon but the cancellation of the programme will set back a lunar mission by decades.
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