50 years ago: The day Apollo died

            Welcome to the new decade.  Welcome to the future:  The year nineteen-seventy.

            The year and new decade are not even two weeks old

            and already the future is finished, washed up, watered down

            and about to be washed away.  That is, any future for the Apollo line.

            It’s January 13, 1970 — the day Apollo died.

            Announced a week before, Apollo 20, the final moon landing,

            has been lopped off, sacrificed to yield its Saturn V booster 

            to the Skylab program, at the time scheduled for 1972.

            Then today, January 13th, the hammer comes down:  Production of Saturn Vs 

            will be terminated after the 15th vehicle.  The lineage of Apollo

            hardware would cease, a dead end.  The only question remained,

            how many more missions would be flown?  Flights were

            strung out to six month intervals, leaving the program

            vulnerable to cuts down stream.

            And such cuts continued, came swiftly, beginning at the start of February

            with President Nixon’s Fiscal Year 1971 budget.  NASA, on top of

            earlier budget reductions, would be squeezed a further $125 million,

            down to $3.403 billion from FY 1970’s $3.889 billion,

            necessitating a cut of 50,000 NASA and contractor jobs, 

            forcing a delay of Skylab from 1972 to 1973.  While Skylab flies, Apollo will be on hiatus.

            The final two flights, pushed to 1974, hung twisting in the budgetary wind.

            January 13, 1970:  

                                      Apollo was dead even before its most magnificent missions flew.

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