Obama to "put the brakes" on moon, Mars missions
President Barack Obama is essentially grounding efforts to return astronauts to the moon and instead is sending NASA in new directions with roughly $6 billion more, said officials familiar with the plans.
A White House official confirmed Thursday that when next week's budget is proposed, NASA will get an additional $5.9 billion 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 George W. Bush. An aide to an elected official who was told of Obama's plans, but who asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the discussions, said Obama is effectively ending the return-to-the-moon effort, something that has already cost $9.1 billion.
So: we're going to entrust our human spaceflight to private companies who, to date, have yet to even achieve orbital flight. We're going to extend the life of a station that does nothing aside from serve as a learning experience for future space construction- only, well, there isn't going to BE any future space construction.
And the moon landing and permanent base- the test platform utterly, utterly necessary to prepare for a Mars manned mission and landing- cancelled for lack of funds.
Space policy scholar John Logsdon, who was on an Obama space campaign advisory committee and has served on NASA advisory panels, said Obama is adopting the preferred option of a White House-appointed outside panel of experts last year. That concept includes reliance on a commercial spaceship, a space station that functions for five more years than planned, and a “flexible path” for human space exploration. That might mean trips to a nearby asteroid, a Martian moon or a brief visit to the moon, instead of the Bush plan for a moon base by the end of the decade.
“What kills the moon mission is the decision to extend the space station to 2020,” Logsdon said. That means the Bush goal of “moon by 2020 is dead. We can't afford using the station for five more years and going to the moon.”
While the Constellation program “is dead, exploration is not dead and that's really important,” Logsdon said.
Um, actually, exploration IS dead. You've just killed it. Without Ares- which is also getting the axe- and without Orion, there is no heavy lift vehicle on Earth which has a hope in hell of rendezvous with, much less landing on, a near-Earth asteroid. What's more, attempting a human landing on an asteroid is far, FAR more dangerous than landing on the Moon or Mars. It means a longer trip to a body with far less gravity, where an injudicious movement on the part of an astronaut could- and likely would- send that astronaut off into space, never to be recovered.
Here's a bit of actual honesty:
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.
He said this would be recommending “that the nation abandon its leadership on the space frontier,” Griffin said.
. . .
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 report called such a path “unwise and probably not cost-effective.”
But the Obama administration official said the Bush program was so underfunded that it wouldn't get astronauts to the moon until 2028 or 2030.
So much for Obama "not being a quitter." Now those of us who believe in human spaceflight sooner rather than later have to hope that Congress successfully rejects this portion of Obama's proposed budget.
It took fifty years, but it looks like Jerome Wiesner has finally won.