Tags: glenn | nasa | space

John Glenn: Don't Abandon the Space Station

Thursday, 24 Sep 2009 08:28 PM

By Ashley Martella

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Former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn fears that the $100 billion the United States invested in the International Space Station could be lost if NASA doesn’t continue getting adequate funding.

“We always wanted to do more research in space, and in the shuttle you could only stay up there for about two weeks. The space station was our effort to make a long-term research laboratory up there,” Glenn told Newsmax.TV correspondent Kathleen Walter at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.

See Video: John Glenn talks about the importance of space exploration - Click Here Now

Other countries are waiting in the wings to take over space exploration if the United States abandons the space station, the former Marine Corps pilot noted.

“We have 15 other nations involved with us on that," Glenn said. "President Bush came over in January of '04, the beginning of an election year, and just changed NASA’s whole direction, just said that we’re now going to the moon and Mars, but NASA was not getting any more money."

The shift in philosophy and finances was a blow to the partially completed space station, said Glenn, who was an Ohio senator from 1974 to 1999.

"NASA then had to take the research money off the station to use for what the president was directing them to do. Now we are just in the final stages, we’re just completing the station. We have invested through the years, the 18 or 19 years that it’s been building, we have invested $100 billion in the space station. And now for lack of 3 or 4 or 5 billion dollars a year to continue the shuttle and restore the research on the station, we’re not using that investment at all.”

On an international issue, Walter asked Glenn about President Obama's scrapping the Eastern European missile shield that President Bush had promised to Poland the Czech Republic.

“The first thing on missile shield is do we have the technology to make it work?” he said. "And I think that’s very questionable right now, even if we wanted to set one up. Can we set up the radar that can pick up things coming up? Yes, but then what do you do?"

Some tentative systems work short range, said Glenn, who served on the Senate's Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committee.

"But I think to set up that whole shield with the idea that the Iranians are the big threat to us right now from ICBMs was a little hard to believe, so I think he [Obama] made the right decision,” Glenn said.

He also weighed in on the Middle East.

“We’re not going to have peace in that area until the Palestinians know they have a homeland of their own and that’s natural where they are the predominant authority. And I think as long as the president’s emphasis is on saying that as long as settlements are being expanded and more settlements put into Palestinian territory that’s going to make it that much more difficult for peace and I agree with that.”

In 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to fly in space, at age 77. Walter asked the now 88-year-old Glenn whether he has any plans for another space flight.

“Like to — don’t tell my wife that,” he quipped.

See Video: John Glenn talks about the importance of space exploration - Click Here Now

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