Science: Waning Moon Program

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At the height of the space race, NASA ambitiously scheduled ten lunar landings, planning to send Americans to the moon every four months or so until the end of 1972. As public interest in the moon program faded and Congress chopped away at NASA's budget, however, the space agency began having second thoughts. Earlier this year, it canceled the last of the scheduled missions, Apollo 20, and spaced out the remaining landings to twice a year. Last week, the space agency reluctantly scrubbed two more missions—Apollo 15 and Apollo 19—leaving only four more scheduled flights to the moon.

The cancellations bitterly disappointed NASA's 49 highly trained active astronauts, 35 of whom are still waiting for a flight. The cutbacks are also a severe blow to lunar scientists, who have only begun to tackle some of the questions raised by the findings of the successful Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions. Perhaps the only consolation for NASA is that the money saved from the two canceled shots (at least $350 million) may be applied to its Skylab program, which, beginning in late 1972, will place a crew of three into earth orbit for 28 days to determine man's ability to survive and work in space for long periods of time.