Congress, Other

Astronauts to get Congressional medals today

At 11 am EST today, Congress will host a ceremony awarding Congressional Gold Medals to Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, as well as John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. The ceremony, in the Capitol rotunda, will be webcast by the Senate Commerce Committee; C-SPAN will be carrying it as well.

The medals were authorized in legislation passed by Congress back in 2009. As the Orlando Sentinel noted last month, it’s not clear why it took Congress two years to get around to actually awarding the medals.

37 comments to Astronauts to get Congressional medals today

  • DCSCA

    “The medals were authorized in legislation passed by Congress back in 2009. As the Orlando Sentinel noted last month, it’s not clear why it took Congress two years to get around to actually awarding the medals.”

    Or why they’re doing it virtually 42 years to the day after Apollo 12, not Apollo 11, was launched and three months before the 50th Anniversary of Glenn’s Friensdship 7 flight back on 2/20/62. Anything rather than doing real work on the deficit reduction as the Super Committee’s time runs out.

    Meanwhile, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, who keeps saying he’s a staunch supporter of America’s manned space progam… is about as far away from it as possible… in Australia.

  • amightywind

    We are reduced to celebrating ever longer anniversaries for ever older astronauts, while our space program wheezes on life support. Obama’s stewardship of America’s space program sickens me.

  • @ablastofhotair
    “We are reduced to celebrating ever longer anniversaries for ever older astronauts, while our space program wheezes on life support. “
    True, but not for the reason you state. But because we relied on a single vehicle for decades without working on a sensible successor while we were flying it.

    You are such an idiot.

  • CharlesHouston

    These guys are truely amazing, but do they need another medal and another ceremony? They all have drawers full of honors already.
    We need to get to work on the heroes of the future, the accomplishments of the future.
    I wonder if this isn’t a publicity thing for the Congress, to burnish their tarnished reputations and provide a photo for the campaign brochure?

  • Robert G. Oler

    And no one cares…really how many Americans would care about this even if they knew about it…? this is just one more symptom of a dysfunctional congress RGO

  • vic

    …because the problems with America’s space program started all three years ago.

  • vic

    Grammatical error…because the problems with America’s space program all started three years ago.

  • Coastal Ron

    vic wrote @ November 16th, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    because the problems with America’s space program all started three years ago.

    If you mean Congress using NASA as a jobs program for certain districts, that has been going on for decades.

  • Explorer08

    Jeff – is there anyway to keep juvenile name callers off the posts? Poster Rick Boozer is today’s example.

  • Jeff Foust

    As I’ve mentioned before, please be courteous in your posts: attack each others’ ideas, not each other. Thanks, as always, for your anticipated cooperation in this regard, thereby ensuring comments will continue to be available here in the future.

  • …it’s not clear why it took Congress two years to get around to actually awarding the medals.

    At least part of the delay was the time needed to reach consensus on the medals’ design (the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts oversaw the process, which included consultation with the recipient astronauts). The “New Frontier” medals’ artwork was agreed upon in Nov. 2010 and even after that changes were made. Then there was the time needed for the U.S. Mint to sculpt and strike the medals.

    Congress also apparently needed to pass a resolution (S. Con. Res. 29) authorizing the use of the Capitol Rotunda for the ceremony.

    That doesn’t necessarily explain the more than two years between the original act’s passage and today’s ceremony, but it accounts for at least some of time.

  • E.P. Grondine

    AW –

    You’re getting off message again. ATK is a crummy company who could not deliver a crummy medium heavy launcher anywhere near on time or budget, even after some $7 billion spent.

    I hope Dr. Aldrin and Dr. Armstrong got a chance for a civil exchange on solid motor combustion oscillations afterward, and perhaps they recalled Werhner’s old saying: Solids lack abort modes.

  • DCSCA

    When the Apollo 11 crew landed back in ’69, gold was sellnig for about $45/oz. When Glenn flew it was a little less. $ioday, it’s near $1800 and moving up. Memo to Neil, Buzz, Mike and John: melt ‘em down.

  • You all know the old, tired cliche line, about us being “half-way to anywhere”, when we’re in LEO ? But the stinking trouble with that statement, is that WE’VE BEEN HALF-WAY TO ANYPLACE FOR FORTY LONG YEARS!! Where are the space heroes of the future, and the grand space acheivements that should eventually come to pass?? I do NOT see one iota of a great space future dawning for this country. We’ve gone right back to stagnation-as-usual, since the flim-flam-man-in-chief demolished the new manned Lunar goal. By the way, viewers, REAL EXPLORATION HAS ALWAYS INVOLVED GOING BACK TO WHERE YOU’VE BEEN, at every juncture in history. Case in point: when Captain James Cook visited the Hawaiian Islands in the 1770′s, and his crew ended their survey; other expeditioners followed in their footsteps. You didn’t hear a peep out of the Prime Minister of England, saying that “We’ve been there already.” To the contrary, further missions were sent to the Pacific islands & Australia—which England would ultimately control in the long term—because there was still plenty of exploring work to do in those far-off outpost lands. Believe you me, in this 21st century, there remains a large bounty of things to do, up there, three days out, on the Moon. Tasks & things that have never been fully done before, that will have a tremendous effect on the far long term of our spacefaring future. I say that we reserve a small number of Congressional medals for some of those future astronauts, who’ll re-open the Lunar frontier.

  • @Chris Castro
    “But the stinking trouble with that statement, is that WE’VE BEEN HALF-WAY TO ANYPLACE FOR FORTY LONG YEARS!! “
    And why is that, Chris? Because noncompetitive government managed launcher development and operation is so expensive there isn’t enough money left in the budget for anything else.

    Time to put the thinking cap on. Hyperexpensive projects like SLS that blow their budgets and eat the budget for other things (such as the hardware needed to do serious BEO exploration and also cheaper payload to LEO – because yes you do have to get there first) will only keep us in LEO and relying on the Russians that much longer.

  • amightywind

    You’re getting off message again.

    Really? I don’t see that I mentioned ATK or Ares at all. But if you want to kick a head horse, have fun.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Good Morning, AW –

    “Obama’s stewardship of America’s space program sickens me.”

    Let’s see, Obama gets the keys. By this point crummy ATK’s crummy rocket is so far from working that its hopeless after billions have been spent.

    Obama tries to bring in Gration and go with DIRECT, but he is blocked by those under the influence of “a certain company”.

    So Obama brings in Astronaut Bolden, who, guess what, used to lobby for “a certain company”. Bolden, and everyone else, finally learn hows bad the situation with “a certain company’s” launcher is.

    Obama consults with engineer, says he wants to have NASA look at some less expensive fly-back options. Plan killed by “a certain company”.

    Obama says he wants the US to send men to Mars, developing the tech via a manned asteroid visit, a plan going back some 13 years. In their usual non-biased, fair, and accurate reporting privately owned media leaves out the “on to Mars” part, blames plan on “crony capitalism” with a private rocket company, and claims that a certain lady thought it up.

    I suppose their reporters were not listening in to the right mobile telephones.

  • vic

    Coastal Ron wrote @ November 16th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    “If you mean Congress using NASA as a jobs program for certain districts, that has been going on for decades.”

    The post was sarcasm directed specifically at Mr. Wind. It is not to be taken as an endorsement of Obama.

  • DCSCA

    News reports of this oddly out-of-step-with-our-times event hyped Speaker of the House John Boehner getting ‘choked up’ when, of course, Congress has simply ‘choked’ on maintaining vibrant, strong fiscal support for America’s space program over the near half-century since Apollo 11. Consider this: the ceremony was 42 years after Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969 and in terms of time, was like giving Lindbergh a medal in 1969, 42 years after his NY to Paris flight in 1927. Of course the progress in military and commerical aviation development between 1927 and 1969 is self-evident as there was and remains a market for it in both in the military, civilian and commerical arenas. Human spaceflight over a 42 year period, decidely less so, and it remains chiefly a frontier for experimental exploration, not exploitation, funded by governments for geo-political purposes.

    Private enterprise will never lead the way in commerical HSF at this point in human history given the immense costs, limited market and minimal to zero ROI for investors. That’s just the way it is in this era; will be for decades to come; is why governments over the past 80-plus years of modern rocketry have done it and reinforces why subsidizing any private commercial space efforts with dwindling, limited resources in the Age of Austerity is a massive waste of time and money. Every available tax dollar must continue to fund NASA and America’s government managed and operated space program, not the commerical sector, which should seek financing from private capital markets, not the United States Treasury.

  • @DCSCA;…Way right! Freakin’ A right! I mean,….aren’t people tired of the same old, same old thing, continuously going on for forty-something years now?? I am sick & tired of the same LEO space station thing, over and over again! It’s dull and it’s total stagnation! I hate so much, the fact that China seems poised to do nothing but Low Earth Orbit for the forseeable ten or fifteen years. If they would only plow ahead and develop a Saturn 5-class of Heavy Lift launcher, and emplace a manned-type of lander craft on board it, plus a decent earth escape stage attached, they could stake their claim on all the Lunar resources, for their country! But they don’t and they won’t. No….they simply got to copy us and build yet another boring and dull palace in LEO, leaving us with no Great Space Race competitor! Believe you me, all this is Ground Hog Day repeating itself. 2011 differs so so little, from the space capabilities of 1991. Or even 1981. Just how much chronologically older do all of us have to become, before the true deep space faring really begins? If Hollywood ever decides to do a re-make of “2001: A Space Odyssey”; they’d just better remember to re-title it: “2051: A Space Odyssey”, instead!

  • @Chris Castro
    “I mean,….aren’t people tired of the same old, same old thing, continuously going on for forty-something years now?? I am sick & tired of the same LEO space station thing, over and over again! It’s dull and it’s total stagnation! “
    Yes, indeed we are tired of it. But evidently you aren’t as tired of it as you like to rave. You want to go with SLS which is the perfect way to make sure we remain stuck in LEO for another 40 years, for reasons I and others have explained to you over and over again, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

  • I hate so much, the fact that China seems poised to do nothing but Low Earth Orbit for the forseeable ten or fifteen years.

    We don’t care what you irrationally hate.

    If they would only plow ahead and develop a Saturn 5-class of Heavy Lift launcher, and emplace a manned-type of lander craft on board it, plus a decent earth escape stage attached, they could stake their claim on all the Lunar resources, for their country!

    If they really wanted to claim the moon, that would be an idiotic way to do it.

  • Vladislaw

    Chris wrote:

    “I mean,….aren’t people tired of the same old, same old thing, continuously going on for forty-something years now?? I am sick & tired of the same LEO space station thing, over and over again! It’s dull and it’s total stagnation!”

    Labs are supposed to be exciting and are built with the express purpose of “entertaining” Chris? Just the ISS national lab, or all national labs? Do you do rants about Bells labs and private sector labs too? Do you rant about NASA labs that are ground based, about how boring they are?

    In high school did you rant about how boring the bio lab was there? Where does it start and stop with you about how boring labs are?

  • I am mystified by how popular this anti-Heavy-Lift rocket stance is! A Heavy-Lift rocket is PRECISELY what we need! All this silly talk about doing the Beyond-LEO job using smaller rockets and/or in-orbit refueling depots—-that viewpoint will get us nowhere! Literally! I DISAGREE with the Zubrinites on their highly distracting obsession with reaching Mars ASAP. The Moon should be dealt with first, in order to effectively develop & test out the far-deep space hardware. But Bobby Zubrin is at least correct about the urgent need for a Heavy-Lift launcher. Raw & blunt-to-the-point rocket power is the name of this game! The Skylab space station was launched to LEO in a single mighty launch in 1973, one afternoon. All of the Apollo Lunar missions were sent to an LEO parking orbit in an identical way. Why should we devolve into the absurd little-piece-by-little-piece construction approach that has been utilized to build the ISS???!

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ November 19th, 2011 at 5:28 am

    A Heavy-Lift rocket is PRECISELY what we need

    Ok, prove it. What are the funded payloads and missions that that only the SLS can support?

    Or, point us to the proposals that are working their way towards Congress for funding.

    I doubt you’ll be able to answer this Chris, so let’s open this up to anyone – can anyone show a need for the SLS? Something published or already defined that is likely to be proposed to Congress for using the SLS starting in 10 years. Anyone?

  • Byeman

    “I am mystified by how popular this anti-Heavy-Lift rocket stance is!”

    Because it is the right stance at this time. There is no need for an HLV in the next 10 to 15 years.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Chris Castro wrote @ November 19th, 2011 at 5:28 am
    “Why should we devolve into the absurd little-piece-by-little-piece construction approach that has been utilized to build the ISS???!”

    because it turns out better. RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    Chris, the reason why people are so anti HLV is because it is both a waste of money and a waste of time. If you will notice that only the MPCV and SLS are funded. No lunar lander, no space station or lunar base modules, no deep space habitat.

    It isn’t because we can’t afford these. It is because you can’t afford a NASA owned HLV and develop these at the same time. It does not fit into the NASA budget. All you can do in 2021 is l1 missions and Orbit the moon. Both of which can be done cheaper and faster via EELV. If you want to land on the moon it will take at least 5-10 years to develop a lander which can’t happen on this budget until post 2021—-assuming the HLV is on time(which odds are NOT!).

    There is an old saying: “Beware a 12-division strategy for a 10-division army”

    For NASA of 1963 to build the Saturn V makes sense. There are no commercial launch companies in 1963 and it’s huge budget could afford to develop a capsule, lander, Saturn 1B and Saturn V while running the rest of Mercury and Gemini at the same time. There were lots of technical challenges like space walking and docking that had to be solved and the reliability of 60ies rockets is not too good. That along with the poor capcity of 1960ies rockets (only Saturn IB has a lot of payload to LEO but little to none to higher orbits—which is why it was retired in favor of the Titan III). Even then they considered it(a moon shoot could be done with about 3 Saturn 1B launches).

    For NASA of any decade after 1990 and esp. after the shuttle shutdown to even attempt to build an HLV is foolish. They don’t have a 1960ies budget. They had to shut down lunar lander development long before CXP was canceled due to budget. We have launch companies that can now transport up to about 25MT to orbit and if needed these rockets can be evolved up to 130MT. We have mastered docking, on orbit assembly and space walking(compared to the 60ies).

    Ever wonder why there were 7 sayluts but only 1 Skylab? It is because unlike the Saturn V, the Proton rocket has uses other than manned spaceflight. The Soviets use proton to launch other things and would never shut it down without replacement. If Skylab massed about 12MT or so then it would have been possible for Saturn 1B, Titan III or the Shuttle to carry Skylab B to Orbit. Oh by the way all these stations were manned after their first launch and the ISS was able to support a crew after 3 launches.

    This is what commercialization brings to the manned space program. It frees NASA to concentrate on other more important things. A HLV that only does trips to the moon and maybe an oversized space station isn’t economical. NASA would pay the full bill of keeping this system going and even worse the current political system would hamper any attempt at becoming more economical.

    A commercially owned rocket on the other hand has other users and would be built as economically as possible.

    It is possible to land on the moon in as little as 25MT chucks.

  • @Coastal Ron & Byeman: Hello! Before February/April of 2010, WE DID INDEED HAVE A BEO PAYLOAD TASK FOR A HEAVY-LIFT ROCKET. Be it the Ares 5 or the hypothetical Ares 4: We had a new manned Lunar spacecraft transport system to deal with: The Orion-Altair & EDS stack. But once the flim-flam artist-in-cheif declared the Moon to be off limits to this nation’s space plans, now we have to get back on the “let’s-try-to-invent-another-reason-why-to-build-it” mode. All this was totally unnecessary; and why Congress failed to actually veto Mr. Obama on this matter, totally boggles my mind! Once this nation has a Saturn-5-equivalent rocket, a host of fantastic things become possible, right from the get-go. Both the Orion & Altair Lunar vehicles can be built with unmanned, automated variants—-something that was talked about during the Apollo days, but never actually carried out. Orion was planned to have been capable of an unmanned phase of its flight, in Lunar orbit, for a fortnight span or longer, in order to permit a landed surface crew to stay for a sizeable length of time, without necessarily leaving one member to have to remain on board. But the Altair lunar lander, could’ve had an unmanned cargo-emplacing variant, which, minus the ascent stage, would’ve landed equipment & base modules on the Moon. Further, the fact that an Ares 5-type of rocket had the task of launching an earth escape stage, means that just like in the Skylab case, a large alternate payload could be launched into an LEO parking orbit, in the place of the EDS. So future Mars-going cargo or habitat modules, for manned missions, could have their genesis, somewhere down the road. Plus, even if we wanted to waste & squander even more valuable time in LEO, the launch of space platform modules would still be possible. They’d just go up all in one launch, over the course of one day. Instead of the piece-by-little-piece approach.

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ November 20th, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Hello! Before February/April of 2010, WE DID INDEED HAVE A BEO PAYLOAD TASK FOR A HEAVY-LIFT ROCKET.

    Chris, try and stay with the present day reality here. As of TODAY, is there a funded use for the SLS, or any programs working their way towards funding in Congress? No.

    And even Constellation was a short-lived program, in that the funding plan was for a set amount of trips. Maybe that could have changed, but maybe not, and then where would the Ares V have been used?

    All this was totally unnecessary; and why Congress failed to actually veto Mr. Obama on this matter, totally boggles my mind!

    It boggles your mind because you don’t know anything about how our government works. Congress passes laws, and the PRESIDENT is the one that can veto, not Congress. No wonder your thinking is so screwed up.

    Both the Orion & Altair Lunar vehicles can be built with unmanned, automated variants

    That can still be done today, without the SLS. Maybe you didn’t hear, but the MPCV will be going up on a Delta IV Heavy for testing, and it could easily be mated up with an EDS for a trip to the Moon – all using Delta IV Heavy, and saving the U.S. Taxpayer $30B. What’s wrong with that?

    a large alternate payload could be launched into an LEO parking orbit, in the place of the EDS. So future Mars-going cargo or habitat modules, for manned missions, could have their genesis, somewhere down the road.

    Careful here. Once you open the door to missions that are built up out of multiple launches, the need for the SLS goes away.

    They’d [future LEO space stations] just go up all in one launch, over the course of one day. Instead of the piece-by-little-piece approach.

    So you would limit the size of future space stations to what fit on ONE SLS? You do realize that the SLS can only put 286,600 lbs to LEO, whereas the current ISS is 990,000 lbs? You have that completely backward – the SLS would limit us under your “rules” (i.e. no space assembly).

    Bottom line though is that your answer to my November 19th, 2011 at 11:13 am question is NO, you can’t think of any short-term or long-term use for the SLS.

    And judging by the lack of responses, no one is even trying to justify a need for the SLS. That proves our point.

  • @Ron
    More La La Land thinking from Chris. No amount of reason and independently verifiable fact will convince him. The only thing that can be done is to refute his repeated misconceptions in case someone is checking out this blog for the first time and does not have enough background in the matter to realize he’s spouting B.S. So I am going to leave that to people like you who I consider more capable at it than I am. Both he and Wiser (who is determined not live up to his surname) both remind me of the White Queen from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland who declared, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

  • Coastal Ron

    Rick Boozer wrote @ November 20th, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    The only thing that can be done is to refute his repeated misconceptions in case someone is checking out this blog for the first time…

    Yep, that’s about the only reason I respond – kind of like not letting a lie, lie. In their case I don’t believe ignorance is bliss, and in fact it can be very damaging for those that are, like you pointed out, looking to this blog for information.

    In general there are quite a few people that post here whose perspectives I enjoy reading – and I don’t always agree with them either. I can’t comment on every post I like or don’t like, so I tend to focus on those that I view as chances to persuade or just to refute if they are misinformed.

    My $0.02

  • In brief, the people who are resigned to an LEO-only manned space program—the ones who want to build tourist hotels in LEO—are content with this country having no Heavy-Lift launcher. On the other end of the spectrum are those people like myself, who desire to see American astronauts once again breaking orbit, and heading off into deep space—and yes, the Moon is indeed in deep space—and wish to see Antarctic-type bases as well as more extensive selenological visits to diverse sites there—-who want to see this nation commit to a serious Heavy-Lift rocket program ASAP. Somebody here, on this web-site, gave me the put-down that “if you want to be entertained, go see a movie”; but THAT is just the trouble! I am so tired of manned deep space exploration being only in the movies! I DON’T want it to be just in Hollywood films anymore! That is why I have by and large given up & outgrown science fiction. Sci-Fi NO longer speaks to me. With very, very little exception, I no longer see movies nor shows about all this fantastical, amazing human future of interstellar & galactic proportions that is supposed to be just pre-destined to happen, with all of us just rushing to be space tourists & space cadets. I actually boycott ever seeing another Star Trek or Star Wars or Avatar or any other movie/show like those again. The Trekkie universe is made up of delusional dreamers, who expect that somebody else is going to someday make all that wild-space-expansion jazz & united-federation-of-planets fantasy come true; without any contribution from the people/world of the present. They think this is all going to come about magically! The Trekkie-types never gave a hoot about real space exploration. So I feel completely inclined to distance myself from most of the science fiction community. Dammit, I want manned deep space exploration to come true & be real! NOT to be the makings of a movie or tv series.

  • @Chris Castro
    “In brief, the people who are resigned to an LEO-only manned space program—the ones who want to build tourist hotels in LEO—are content with this country having no Heavy-Lift launcher.
    Who are these people, Chris? I don’t know any on my side of this issue who are resigned to a LEO-only manned space program. Certainly NOT me and others who support a nonSLS program. You are confusing LEO coupled with BEO exploration using commercial launchers with LEO-only. I have been a human space exploration enthusiast since I was 8 years old. I saw Neil Armstrong take his first hop off that ladder live on TV and I am as proud today of that accomplishment as I was then. I and others like me would NEVER support a LEO-only program. Take the blinders off man!

    “are content with this country having no Heavy-Lift launcher.
    BEO can be started NOW using existing launchers if money is NOT wasted on SLS, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have an HLV. Falcon Heavy will probably be ready long before the 70mt iteration of SLS and will cost the taxpayer nothing (since SpaceX is paying for FH development themselves) versus billions of dollars for SLS. The first iteration of FH will have 53 mt payload, but Raptor is being developed concurrently with FH. An FH with a Raptor engine upper stage would exceed 70mt and will probably come into being long before the 70mt version of SLS. If that occurs, what do you think is going to happen to SLS?

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ November 21st, 2011 at 4:26 am

    In brief, the people who are resigned to an LEO-only manned space program…

    Like Rick Boozer said, I don’t know who those people are, and I’m not one of them either. Your emotions are blinding you.

    …the ones who want to build tourist hotels in LEO…

    For myself, I have advocated that tourism will be an outgrowth of our expansion and exploration, not a driver, and I don’t factor tourism into my calculations for how quickly we can expand and explore space.

    Again, your emotions are blinding you to what people are saying.

    …are content with this country having no Heavy-Lift launcher….

    Yep, I’m content for now that we don’t have one. Why do we need one? You and others have shown a lack of need.

    Where are the payloads that will launch on the SLS in the early 2020′s? You know, the NEED for the SLS?

    Why do you avoid that question? You don’t even make uneducated guesses, which is REALLY telling. No one else does either, so that kind of confirms our suspicions about the SLS being a political jobs program, and not a response to a lack of heavy lift capability.

    …who want to see this nation commit to a serious Heavy-Lift rocket program ASAP.

    Here’s the thing we don’t understand – do you want a “Heavy-Lift rocket program”, or do you want to explore? There are plenty of studies that show we can start exploring sooner, for less money, without an HLV. Why don’t you support that approach?

    That you don’t support that kind of approach tells us that you are only interested in the SLS because you deem it as “macho”, and all the “real men” have “Big Frickin Rockets” (BFR’s).

    From my perspective you don’t care about exploration, you only care about big toys. What say you?

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