Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, told lawmakers Thursday that the end of the space shuttle era has left the American human spaceflight program in an "embarrassing" state.As a kid, I watched nearly every space launch from Mercury to Apollo, saw the moon landings and the scary moments of Apollo 13, and even built a large model of the Saturn V moon launch vehicle. I was a big fan of the program and remember the feeling that Americans could do anything. I certainly don't feel that way about the anemic space program we have today. We don't even have a way to get our own guys into orbit anymore.
"We will have no American access to, and return from, low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for an unpredictable length of time in the future," Armstrong told the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
"For a country that has invested so much for so long to achieve a leadership position in space exploration and exploitation, this condition is viewed by many as lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable."
Armstrong was part of a four-member panel of space experts who told lawmakers that NASA needs a stronger vision for the future and should focus on returning humans to the Moon and to the International Space Station.
"A lead, however earnestly and expensively won, once lost, is nearly impossible to regain," said the US astronaut, now 81, who was commander of Apollo 11 and walked on the Moon in 1969.
President Barack Obama canceled the Constellation program that would have returned humans to the Moon and called on NASA to instead focus on new, deep-space capabilities to carry people to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by 2030.