The failure by the American government to prepare for the shuttleâ€™s inevitable retirement, and to articulate a plan for what was to come next, is for Chris Kraft an unmitigated disaster.
He just might know. As Americaâ€™s first flight director, he is the man for whom mission control is named.
During his nine decades Chris Kraft has observed the entire arc of U.S. and Russian history in space, from the early days of desperately trying to catch the Soviets in space, to beating them to the moon, to now hitching rides to the space station on Russian capsules and being threatened by Russian officials.
â€œThe cancellation of the space shuttle may be the biggest blunder ever made by the United States,â€ Kraft said. â€œItâ€™s fairly obvious that no one in the government thought through what they were about to bring about when they made that decision.â€
Kraft isnâ€™t alone. A Houston scientist who studies the moon, Paul Spudis, served on a Presidential Commission tasked with implementing President Bushâ€™s vision in 2004. What has happened since then, he said, is appalling.
â€œIâ€™ve never seen such a screwed up mess in my life as the way NASA is right now,â€ he said.