His support of the private sector’s bid to take over routine (if there ever was such a thing) space access from big government programs is in stark contrast to the feelings of his fellow moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, who testified in a Senate hearing on the subject in May.
Cernan cited “sea-air rescue” as one of the enormous logistical chores private space companies won’t be able to perform for a private spaceship “because it’s gotta come down somewhere, and it may come down where you don’t want it.”
This was before SpaceX successfully landed the first private spacecraft to return from orbit—within half a mile of its target. No massive infrastructure needed to retrieve the craft, just a small boat to pick it up from a precisely targeted location.
Aldrin’s statement, released on December 20:
“In response to media inquiries concerning my perception of the radical new course of America’s involvement with space, I want to establish that I am personally delighted to see the expansion of private sector involvement in NASA’s Commercial Crew Development-2 Program, through the recent announcement that Virgin Galactic will be partnering with Sierra Nevada Corporation, and with Orbital Sciences Corporation, in this important step to commercialize access to space – for both civil space, and for the emerging space tourism business.
” We have learned though nearly fifty years of Human Space Flight experience, and from nearly thirty years of the Space Shuttle operations, that returning reusable vehicles to the launch site is operationally much more efficient, and thus the private sector requirement for low operational costs will dominate this need.
“I also see great value in capitalizing on the investment that NASA has already made in the Orion Program – to use this capability for its intended purpose – returning from higher energy, deep space missions, where this configuration is better suited to meet these requirements.
“I would like to endorse this kind of approach as the right direction for our future in human space flight – in partnership with NASA, as a cost effective means of meeting our civil space needs, while also providing the foundation for expanded commercial access to space for the private sector, and enabling the eventual expansion of humankind beyond the bounds of Low Earth Orbit.”