Monday, February 01, 2010

Obama Jettisons Moon After $9 Billion Investment

Bart Jansen of the Gannett Washington Bureau filed this story:

WASHINGTON -- After the country spent $9 billion on the Constellation program to return astronauts to the moon, President Barack Obama proposed Monday to no longer shoot for the moon as he boosted NASA funding.

Obama proposed $6 billion in new funding over the next five years for NASA. The additional money would expand and extend research at the International Space Station from 2015 to 2020, encouraging commercial rockets and developing a new heavy-lift rocket.

But the proposal shifts the agency away from its previous goal of using the Constellation program to return astronauts to the moon.

"NASA will cancel the Constellation program in favor of a bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable alternative to space exploration," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

NASA's budget would grow to $19 billion for the year starting Oct. 1, up from $18.7 billion in 2010. The cancellation of the Constellation program also allowed the agency to shift money toward other goals, such as development of a heavy-lift rocket and increased use of robotics.

The budget includes $500 million the first year and a total of $3.1 billion over five years to develop the rocket.

"We were not going to be investing in heavy-lift technology in any meaningful way until 2016," Lori Garver, NASA's deputy administrator, said of the previous budget. "We are looking at investing in new engines after falling behind in a lot of these technologies. We will be much farther ahead than we would have been."

The budget also includes $7.8 billion over five years for development for automated rendezvous and docking so that human and robotic exploration missions are capable and affordable. Robotic exploration to scout locations and demonstrate technologies to increase the safety of future human missions.

"This is a bold and ambitious new space initiave to invest in American ingenuity, to propel us on a new journey of innovation and discovery," said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "Simply put, we're putting the science back into rocket science."

Research in the budget boosts climate research and features a demonstration project for sensors in air and space to better understand climate change and natural disasters. The budget would boost climate-change research by $214 million to $1.285 billion.

"The NASA budget includes a bold new investment in climate science," said Shere Abbott, associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Other facests of the budget would seek innovations to reduce fuel needs, noise and aircraft emissions, with $3.1 billion budgeted over five years to reduce fuel needs, noise and aircraft emissions

But the concern for Kennedy Space Center is that the end of the shuttle program will cost 7,000 local jobs. The budget still projects an end to that program after five more flights in early 2011.

But administration and NASA officials said support for commercial rockets could bring 1,700 jobs to Florida , and improvements at Kennedy Space Center could bring hundreds more jobs.

Garver said enhancements at KSC would improve launch facilities, but also create a research-and-development park and other improvements.

"The Kennedy Space Center (funding) is for strategic investmennts, not just launch facilities, but also for some of the work that they've done on the space station, getting payloads ready, processing and so forth," Garver said.

The budget turns away from the moon. A presidential commission found in October that returning to the moon would simply repeat the Apollo program’s achievements in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lawmakers who supported the Constellation program questioned the reliance on commercial rockets to bring Americans to the space station. But NASA officials said Russian rockets were scheduled after the shuttle retires until 2018 for the Constellation program, but perhaps as early as 2016 with commercial rockets.

"I hope it works," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who said he would study details of the new program before proposing alternatives.

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, criticized the budget and vowed to fight the cancellation of Constellation.

"The president's proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of U.S. human spaceflight," Shelby said.

But Bolden, a former astronaut who flew on four shuttle missions, promised the commerical rockets would be safe.
"I give you my word, these vehicles will be safe," he said.


Anonymous said...

We can always buy our rockets from China, like everything else...

Anonymous said...

NASA is not "jettisoning the Moon." NASA is pursuing a fexible path that will permit more NASA astronauts to take more journeys, to the Moon, the Lagrange points, the asteroids, Mars, Venus, etc. The Bush Vision of Space Exploration would have increased the cost of human spaceflight and reduced the flight rate. Most astronauts would have been laid off or permanently grounded when ISS was simply dropped into the ocean. This morning, General Bolden talked about working with private enterprise to enable hundreds, then thousands of Americans to live and travel in Low Earth Orbit. This is the most exciting, visionary plan ever put forth by a NASA Administrator. It deserves our support.

Anonymous said...

It's terribly wrong!

Yes it cuts the moon program, the human space exploration effort known as Constellation, but why? It gives NASA more money to spend without accountability: a billion dollars more per year (see slide four of the budget overview presentation at There is no goal, no vision, and no end state. All we do is send more money to NASA without any quantifiable human involvement. We’ll invest in technology and research but to what end? Where are we going? Why are we going? How will we know if we’ve done enough? We need that end state, that goal, to help us chart the path and to know when we’re done. Otherwise we will wallow in the lab, never really achieving anything worthwhile other than turning NASA into a jobs program for civil servants. He, Boldin, and Garver, have not a clue how to run a project, set goals or priorities, let alone a technical administration! Get use to Chinese food if you want to go the moon: this will set us yet another 10 years back!

PS – We spend more than $32B a year (yes 1.5 times the total NASA Budget) on NIH biomedical research alone (see OSTP report at! What have you done for me lately: tell me French fries are bad for my health? Give me a break!

PSS – The $500M annual “gift” to KSC for 21st Century Launch Complex (see slide 12 of the aforementioned presentation) is just Obama’s attempt to buy Florida political backing! It does nothing for the 7000 laid off Shuttle workers.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think that this "new vision" will last longer than any of the others? Will we ever have a vision that spans administrations? I wonder what the next administration will have in mind when they cancel this program? We're stuck in a rut here that never ends, and as a result, stuck in low earth orbit.

Anonymous said...

Notice how all of the comments and press releases use the words "bold", "new", "exciting", etc. - but no one has given any details as to just HOW these private companies will miraculously accomplish what NASA can't? Personally, I don't find scrapping one plan without any viable alternative "bold" or "exciting" - just stupid.

Graham (england) said...

Stick with constellation and see it through, then take the next step and so on . .BUT OH WAIT A MINUTE THATS FAR TO EASY ISN'T IT .!JFK is looking down and thinking what the hells gotten into these people .

Anonymous said...

Theres a new sherrif in town boys , his name? CHINA!!!