Tenerife (Spain): Former Apollo astronaut Walter Cunningham has said that NASA's current modest programme is a reflection of a risk-averse society which, in his opinion, is suffering from a lack of motivation.
During the Starmus Science Festival being held in Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands, Cunningham said that the Apollo moon missions were worthwhile and dynamic, and those who participated in them were afraid of the unknown - a situation that, he said, worked very well.
He said he was not speaking about space, but about the psychological aspects and motivating factors that inspired the space race which, in his opinion, were the engine that led to success.
Cunningham, who was the lunar module pilot on the Apollo 7 mission, said that those missions explored a new frontier, and he compared those trips into orbit and to the moon with the 16th century voyagers from Europe to explore the world.
The attitude of refusing to consider the possibility of failure enabled those participating in the programme to overcome all obstacles and achieve something that was a point of pride for all people, he added.
For the astronaut and physicist, during the Apollo epoch, society felt good about itself and the space programme was an adventure that sent the world a message that mankind would not accept limits.
Exploration was not about eliminating risks but rather about managing them, he said.
Cunningham criticised the fact that, these days, decisions were placed in the hands of politicians who were just trying to stay in power and were not willing to take on risks.