Tuesday, February 2, 2010

NASA To Get More Money, But Must Scratch Moon Plan

President Obama is essentially grounding efforts to return astronauts to the moon and instead is sending NASA in new directions with roughly $6 billion more.

The White House has confirmed that when next week's budget is proposed, NASA will get an additional $5.9 billion to be exact over five years, as first reported in Florida newspapers. Some of that money would extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020.

It also would be used to entice companies to build private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station after the space shuttle retires, said the official who was not authorized to speak by name.

The money in the president's budget is not enough to follow through with NASA's Constellation moon landing plan initiated by President Bush in 2004. A new direction for NASA has been on hold for several months while an independent commission studied options and the White House weighed them.

Already proponents of the moon mission and thousands of workers in space centers in Florida, Alabama and Texas are upset. Congressional officials in those states have denounced such ideas and some of them sit on key committees where they could fight Obama's plans. For example, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., chairs the space subcommittee in the Senate. And the chairwoman of the House space subcommittee, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., is married to a space shuttle astronaut. The budget numbers were first reported this week by the Orlando Sentinel and Florida Today.

In a statement, Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-Fla., said, "The president's proposal would leave NASA with essentially no program and no timeline for exploration beyond Earth's orbit."

Ken Matthews, a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Huntsville, Ala., said his members worry about "jobs that won't be there."

If Obama does cancel the Constellation program, it "leaves NASA and the nation with no program, no plan and no commitment to any human spaceflight program beyond that of today," said former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin in a statement.

Kosmas and others raised questions about the safety of switching to a privately run space travel system that NASA would pay to carry astronauts. Companies pursuing such business include Space Exploration Technology Corp. which is already building a new rocket, called Falcon, and capsule, called Dragon. The company is run by PayPal founder Elon Musk.

And a recent report by NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel warned NASA not pursue unproven technology and abandon the Ares I rocket -- the first rocket in the Bush moon program and one based on the Apollo design.

The Bush moon plan was announced after the 2003 Columbia accident that killed seven astronauts. After that disaster in which the shuttle broke apart as it returned to Earth, a special investigative panel said NASA needed a new goal. In January 2004, Bush proposed the return to the moon. It would have involved the Ares I rocket, carrying astronauts in a capsule called Orion. Another Ares spacecraft would carry heavier cargo.

So far NASA has spent $3.5 billion on Ares I and $3.7 billion on Orion and nearly $2 billion on other moon mission work. In the mid-1990s, NASA went through a similar stutter-step that meant abandoning plans that cost billions. That involved President Ronald Reagan's Freedom space station, which ran into trouble after costing $11 billion without building any hardware. President Bill Clinton had the space station redesigned and restarted.

Complied from; CBO; NASA; The AP - Jay Reeves contributed from Birmingham, Ala.

1 comment:

Aron Ranen said...

In 2000 I was paid by the State of Ohio to make a film attempting to prove Apollo 11 was real.

I was able to interview Buzz Aldrin, Gene Cernan, Karl Sendler, Guenter Wendt, Raplh Rene, ..look at moon rocks, send a giant laser to bounce off the reflector...

Posted the whole thing on YOUTUBE. The Documentary film premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

here is link

Please share on facebook...thanks