Friday, May 27, 2011

Schmitt: "Time to start over."

To the distress of Apollo 17 ground controllers watching the live television feed back on Earth, Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt - the only professional scientist and the last man to set foot on the Moon in 1972 briefly lifts his visor to get a better look at a surface sample he had just raked up from the Taurus-Littrow valley floor.

Terence P. Jeffrey

Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, a former U.S. senator who as a crew member of Apollo 17 was the last human being to step foot on the moon, says that the U.S. government should phase out NASA and create a new agency focused on exploring deep space and establishing American settlements on the moon and ultimately Mars.

“I think it is time to start over,” Schmitt told while discussing the U.S. space program in an “Online With Terry Jeffrey” interview.

It was 50 years ago yesterday that President John F. Kennedy spoke to a joint session of Congress and called for the United States to send men to the moon and bring them back before the decade of the 1960s was over. Schmitt believes it is time to renew that vision of U.S. leadership in space, but that NASA is not the federal agency to do it.

“I think the various parts of NASA can be distributed in agencies that already exist, but that if you want the country to be dominant in deep-space exploration I think we are going to need a new agency for a number of reasons,” said Schmitt. “One is that we need to focus the national deep-space exploration effort in a single organization without a lot of other budgetary and managerial distractions. I propose the National Space Exploration Administration.

“That organization, hopefully, would be allowed by Congress to hire the best possible managers that we can find in the country as well as to hire the young engineers and scientists who are absolutely essential to the success of these complex types of programs,” said Schmitt.

Schmitt, who holds a doctorate in Geology from Harvard, was accepted into NASA’s Scientist-Astronaut program in 1965. In 1972, he served on the three-man crew of Apollo 17, the last U.S. mission to the moon. On Dec. 12 of that year, he and fellow astronaut Eugene Cernan landed in the lunar module in the moon’s Valley of Taurus-Littrow.

Read and listen to the full feature, HERE.

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