Thursday, May 07, 2009

NASA Budget Assumes 2010 Shuttle Retirement

Blogger Note: Updated Throughout. News Conference Live in The Flame Trench at 2:30 p.m.

The Obama Administration unveiled NASA's 2010 budget today and it assumes that the space agency will complete the International Space Station and retire the shuttle fleet in 2010.

"The International Space Station is a complex of research laboratories in low Earth orbit in which American, Russian, Canadian, European, and Japanese astronauts are conducting unique scientific and technological investigations in a microgravity environment. The 2010 President's Budget provides funding for Space Station launch processing activities, on-orbit assembly, and continuation of research payload and experiment deliveries to orbit.," a budget document posted at the White House web site says.

"The objective of the Space Station is to support human space exploration and conduct science experiments unique to the location of the Space Station. NASA plans to complete assembly of the Space Station in 2010 prior to Shuttle retirement, including the delivery of the Cupola, Node 3, and logistics and supplies. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) science experiment will be flown after these flights if it can be safely and affordably completed in calendar year 2010," the document says.

"The Space Shuttle program's mission is to support space exploration by completing the assembly of the International Space Station by the end of the decade. The 2010 President's Budget request assumes the Space Shuttle will fly five missions in 2010,
with an additional flight to deliver the AMS science payload if it can be safely and affordably completed in calendar year 2010," the document says.

"The U.S. human space flight program is a very high priority and the administration believes it is extremely important to ensure that the nation is on a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space," a White House spokesman said.

Click HERE to download and save the 11-page document.

You can also watch a NASA news briefing on the budget here in The Flame Trench at 2:30 p.m. Simply click the NASA TV box on the righthand side of this page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage. Be sure to refresh this page, too, for updates.

Reaction on Florida's Space Coast was swift. "NASA's budget release reflects the beginning hints of President Obama's priorities, which is a strengthening of earth sciences and robotic missions as well as support for the Constellation program," said Lynda Weatherman, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission olf Florida's Space Coast.

"Unfortunately the 2010 budget isn't enough to do bold new things and perhaps it is unfair to expect that until a new NASA administrator can complete a review of major programs and determine the appropriate direction of the agency," she said.

"Meanwhile, there is a still a big hit coming to the Space Coast with the retirement of the Shuttle, whether it happens in 2010 or 2011. We are hopeful that over the next five years, reordered priorities of a new agency administrator will take us to a robust space program once again."

The reaction from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, was mixed.

He said Obama "has committed to finishing all nine space shuttle missions, regardless of how long it takes; and, to make full use of the International Space Station."

"This is a step in the right direction," he added. "But down the road the administration's budget does not match what candidate Obama said about the future of our space program. Still, he's assured me these numbers are subject to change, pending a review he has ordered of NASA."

Obama ordered up a review of NASA programs that will be headed by former Martin Marietta Chairman Norman Augustine. Augustine chaired a 1990 review of NASA programs that recommended NASA programs be refocused on science.

The Augustine committee's 1991 report proposed that NASA adopt a "pay-as-you-go" approach to President George H. W. Bush's vision of putting American astronauts on Mars by 2019. NASA prior to that was following an open-ended decades-long approach to exploring the moon and then Mars.

Ironically, the committee also recommended NASA consolidate its exploration efforts under a single "Office of Exploration" that would be headed by an Associate Administrator for Exploration.

NASA hired Michael Griffin from the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization to head the office.

The new Augustine review is expected to be finished within 90 days.

NASA estimates that some 3,500 jobs will be lost at Kennedy Space Center after the retirement of the shuttle fleet. The agency is scheduled to launch nine more shuttle missions -- eight to the International Space Station and one to service the Hubble Space Telescope a fifth and final time.

The Hubble mission is set for launch Monday.

"The 2010 President's Budget provides specific program investments for vehicle safety and supportability needed to maintain a viable Shuttle fleet until its retirement by the end of 2010. The 2010 Budget request will allow NASA to combat flight hardware obsolescence, maintain ground systems and facilities, and to continue progress towards an orderly phase-out of the program," the document says.

"In addition, the Shuttle program will support the Space Operations and Exploration Systems Mission Directorates to leverage select Shuttle flight hardware and ground systems to advance the development of future human spaceflight systems.
Space and Flight Support is comprised of multiple capabilities."

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge and save the Associated Press photo of shuttle Discovery blasting off earlier this year on a mission to the International Space Station.


Anonymous said...

Interesting how different this is than what the psuedo-news station wftv has on their website. It's as if they are on Nelson's paid staff...what a joke..just shows how little goes into their wouldn't surprise me if the other fakers-wkmg and wesh are not far behind in jumping on the spin wagon..funny how even when spinning those two are an hour or so behind.. Kudos to FT staff for calling this what it is.

Anonymous said...

Obama's budget doesn't reflect what Nelson said he would likely do.

So either he is just keeping his budget numbers low and he will later up them.

Or Nelson is wrong and the numbers are correct.

Which one is it???

James Dean said...

For now, Obama and NASA are saying they can fly out the remaining nine shuttle missions on time in 2010, so there's no certainty the money is needed yet. So we'll have to wait and see how long NASA can stick to its schedule, but it probably won't be until next year that additional funding would be requested and considered.