- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. | The astronauts aboard the shuttle-space station complex celebrated the 40th anniversary of man’s first moon landing with their own spacewalk Monday, heading outside to stockpile some big spare parts.

In the second outing of their mission, David Wolf and Thomas Marshburn anchored a 6-foot dish antenna on the International Space Station for future use, then did the same with a hefty pump and an engine for the station’s rail car.

The spacewalk unfolded 40 years to the day that two other astronauts - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin - strolled the moon’s dusty surface. It was the 202nd spacewalk by Americans since the Apollo 11 lunar excursion.

Inside Mission Control, a clock counted down to 4:17 p.m., the moment the Eagle set down on the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969. It wasn’t until two hours later, as the spacewalk was ending, that the astronauts made note of this “special day.”

Earlier in the day at a Washington news conference, some of the Apollo astronauts, including Mr. Aldrin, suggested that the $100 billion poured into the space station had not yielded much and that the outpost would be better used as a testbed for human missions to Mars and even to asteroids.

“We’ve spent a lot of money up there for almost nothing,” said Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell. “It’s almost a white elephant, and until we can really get a return on our investment of that particular project, then it was money wasted.”

Later, the Apollo 11 crew met with President Obama, who used the opportunity to talk about inspiration and science and math education. He didn’t talk about going anywhere in space, not the moon or Mars.

Mr. Obama said he wanted to use Monday’s anniversary of the Apollo moon landing to show that “math and science are cool again.”

“The touchstone for excellence in exploration and discovery is always going to be represented by the men of Apollo 11,” the president said. The astronauts’ work, he said, sparked “innovation, the drive, the entrepreneurship, the creativity back here on Earth.”

In St. Louis, Washington University lunar geochemist Randy Korotev said, “Apollo 11 answered a tremendous amount of scientific questions, but it also introduced new questions we hadn’t even thought about.

“Bringing samples back from the moon wasn’t the point of the mission,” Mr. Korotev said. “It was politically driven - we wanted to beat the Russians.”

He said the moon rocks - hundreds of them are still stored and studied at the university - continue to be valuable. A decade ago, missions that orbited the moon collected mineralogical and compositional data. That new material, combined with the rocks scooped up by the Apollo astronauts, can offer clues about the moon and the origins of the solar system and life on Earth.

Mr. Korotev said scientists know that the moon was hit by very large meteorites about 3.9 billion years ago. That evidence still exists because the moon, unlike Earth, doesn’t have wind, water or volcanoes to wash away the evidence.

Study of the lunar samples could play a key role if the United States decides to send people to the moon again, said Donald Bogard, NASA chief scientist of astromaterials. One concern is the lunar surface’s fine dust and how that could affect those who would work in and around it.

“If we’re going to have people living there any significant amount of time, is this going to be a medical problem for us?” Mr. Bogard asked.

c Jim Salter and Seth Borenstein contributed to this report.

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