Tim Talley - AP Texas Houston Chronicle
OKLAHOMA CITY — Former astronauts and NASA administrators said Wednesday the space shuttle mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope is a good example of why the nation needs a viable, well-funded space program.
"The Hubble Space Telescope wouldn't be in the shape it's in if it wasn't for them," George Abbey, a former director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said of the mission by the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis to make the 19-year-old observatory more powerful than ever.
"It's a great example of why you have men in space and the value of men in space," Abbey said.
Abbey and other former NASA officials discussed funding issues and the uncertain direction of the U.S. space program during a ceremony at the Oklahoma History Center to observe the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 10 mission, for which Oklahoma native Thomas Stafford served as commander.
Stafford, who also flew on two earlier Gemini missions and commanded a second Apollo mission in 1975, said the future of the space program will depend largely on what kind of support it receives from the Obama administration.
Former astronaut Fred Haise, the lunar module pilot on the aborted Apollo 13 mission, said funding is vital if the space program is to repeat the successes of the 1960s that ended with a series of manned missions to the moon.
"You're not going very far if you don't have enough," Haise said.
Former astronaut Walter Cunningham, the lunar module pilot on Apollo 7, said administrators and budget writers should stop citing risk factors in space flight when deciding which NASA programs to fund and how much they receive.
"Space is never going to be cheap. And it's never going to be safe," Cunningham said. "Sometimes that's the price you pay for progress."
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