Neil Armstrong
Hart Matthews  /  Reuters
"To limit the program in the name of eliminating the risk is no virtue," Neil Armstrong said.
updated 3/12/2004 4:11:06 PM ET 2004-03-12T21:11:06

Former astronaut Neil Armstrong says Americans should support President Bush's plan for renewed missions to the moon and beyond.

Armstrong said the plan is economically sustainable and that the country must accept the risks associated with space exploration in order to reap technological rewards.

"Our president has introduced a new initiative with renewed emphasis on the exploration of our solar system and expansion of human frontiers," Armstrong told a crowd of nearly 600 people Thursday. "This proposal has substantial merit and promise."

He was in Houston to receive the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement.

Armstrong, 73, commanded NASA's Apollo 11 mission in 1969, becoming the first person to walk on the moon. In 1971, he left the space program to pursue a teaching career in aeronautical engineering in his native Ohio.

Armstrong said the success of the Bush's space plan depends on whether the government, aerospace industry, researchers and others can unite behind it.

The Bush White House wants to return to the moon and eventually send astronauts there by 2020, and to Mars — an effort that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Some lawmakers have questioned proposed costs and risks.

"Our economy can certainly afford an effort of this magnitude, but the public must believe the benefits to society deserve the investment," Armstrong said in Friday's edition of the Houston Chronicle. "To limit the program in the name of eliminating the risk is no virtue."

President Bush has proposed that the space shuttle stop flying in 2010 and that the remaining shuttle flights concentrate on completion of the International Space Station and research.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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