Goodnight Moon: Obama NASA Budget Ends Return of Astronauts

Thursday, February 04, 2010
Buzz Aldrin on the Moon (photo: NASA)

There may be no giant leap for mankind in the coming years, now that President Barack Obama has effectively killed NASA’s five-year-old program to send astronauts back to the moon. Instead of funding the Constellation program, which was charged with developing spacecraft for moon launches and shepherding astronauts to the International Space Station, the Obama administration wants to pour money into new technologies and to outsource space exploration to private industry.

No timetable or destination for alternative missions beyond Earth’s orbit was announced by NASA or the White House. For now, NASA must get used to changing from an agency that owned its spacecraft to one that will rely on private companies to lift astronauts into low orbit and get them aboard the space station. Some observers have questioned this decision, given the current status of private space flight.
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), founded by eBay creator Elon Musk, pledged to carry out six commercial missions with its Falcon 9 rocket by 2009. To date the company has not pulled off a single one.
United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has decades of experience building spacecraft for NASA, but has yet to send a man into orbit on its own.
President Obama’s decision to scrap the lunar mission provoked a sharp response from many lawmakers whose districts will be adversely affected by an end to the Constellation program. “The president’s proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of US human spaceflight,” Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) told the Christian Science Monitor. Shelby’s state includes NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville.
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) warned that Obama’s plans could allow Russia and China to eclipse the U.S. in the space race.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Obama's Budget Would Scrap NASA's Moon Mission (by Peter N. Spotts, Christian Science Monitor)
Obama Calls for End to NASA’s Moon Program (by Kenneth Chang, New York Times)


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