"What we threw away was criminal."
By the time of Nixon's Presidency (January 1969), our country was going though a bi-polar moment. On the one hand, we were about to land human beings on the moon, an achievement so profound that millions would be soon watching on their TVs. Yet at the same time, NASA was facing budget cutbacks so sever as to almost destroy the space agency.
NASA tried valiantly to make the politicians understand the importance of a vibrant space program. If nothing else, it was a great way to wage war with the Soviet Union without firing one shot, except rockets into space "for all mankind". JFK understood this; while he was building up a weapons industry, he also built up a spaceship industry. All in the name of fighting the USSR in the skies above.
It is the height of irony that the crowning achievement (Soviet humiliation?) that was Apollo 11 brought the final curtain down on the ailing space program. "Why should we keep beating the USSR over and over again?" came the indignant cry from the masses. Maybe because the space program should have been more than just something to bludgeon our mortal enemy (at the time) over the head?
What we threw away was criminal. To allow the hopes and dreams of young people as they grew to be inspired by what they saw on TV to wither and die is a terrible embarrassment. It really was a shameful period in US history.