Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who became the second man to walk on the moon 50 years ago, told President Donald Trump on Friday that he’s unimpressed with the status of the U.S. space program.
“Frankly, I’m a little disappointed in the last 10 to 15 years,” he told the president during an Oval Office press conference with Michael Collins, another Apolo 11 astronaut. “We were able to achieve so much early. Now we have the number one rocket right now in the U.S., and we have the number one spacecraft, and they cannot get into lunar orbit with significant maneuvering capability. And that’s a great disappointment to me.”
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine, who was also present, said, “We’re working on it,” Quartz reported.
Just before Aldrin made his remarks, Trump praised the space program, vowing that it would be “going a lot further now,” not only back to the moon but to Mars.
“NASA is back,” the president declared, adding that Florida’s Kennedy Space Center “was not a pretty picture” in the past.
“They were almost, you could say, abandoned, and now they’re in tip-top shape and rockets are going up all the time,” he added.
Aldrin has in the past voiced criticism of the space program, telling Ars Technica in a recent interview, “We’ve been fumbling around for a long, long time.”
“There has to be a better way of doing things,” he said.
NASA has set its sights on another moon landing by 2024 with its Orion deep-space crew capsule and Space Launch System rocket. According to CBS News, this time, the goal is to pursue long-term space exploration rather than the singular objective of landing on the moon.
However, concerns have been raised over the mission’s ever-changing timeline and its growing costs.
In June, a Government Accountability Office report urged that the program, on which more than $8 billion has been spent, “adopt more transparent cost reporting practices,” as the agency had trouble determining the actual price tag for its projects.