Going In Circles Again: America Will Abandon Human Lunar Exploration - And Much More

Report: Obama Budget to Scrub Moon Mission, CBS News

"Instead of blasting off to the moon, NASA's hopes for a manned mission there have been blasted to pieces, sources in the White House, Congress and NASA tell the Orlando Sentinel."

White House won't fund NASA moon program, Orlando Sentinel via LA Times

"When the White House releases its budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program that was to return humans to the moon by 2020. The Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to return to the moon. There will be no lunar landers, no moon bases. "We certainly don't need to go back to the moon," one administration official said."

NASA to Review Human Spaceflight, NY Times

"Michael D. Griffin, the former NASA administrator who oversaw the creation of Constellation and remains a staunch defender, said that would be a mistake. "I can't imagine the situation where the United States doesn't want to have end-to-end capability to reach the lunar surface," Dr. Griffin said."

Flat budget, limited goals may be in NASA's future, Houston Chronicle

"Far from getting the $3 billion more each year that experts suggest NASA needs for meaningful human spaceflight, President Barack Obama is expected to offer little new money to the space agency when his budget is released Monday. Although there's no official word from the White House or NASA, space policy analysts and legislators say it's likely the space agency's budget will remain "flat" for the coming year, potentially leaving humans stuck in near-Earth orbit for the foreseeable future."

Keith's note: NASA has just spent more than half a decade telling Americans that we are all going back to the Moon - and why. In the process, billions of dollars have been spent. Children have grown up being told this again and again - just like my generation heard in the 1960s. Now this is being taken away from them. I can only imagine how my generation would have reacted. It is one thing to alter a plan, change rockets, etc. But it is quite another to abandon the plan altogether.

The ISS has great potential - much of it yet to be realized. But much of that untapped potential was preparing humans to go out into the solar system. Now those destinations have evaporated and have been replaced with the elusive and ill-defined "Flexible Path".

How is NASA going to explain this about face? Answer - they won't - because they can't. They are incapable of admitting mistakes or even stating the obvious. What I really want to see is how NASA attempts to explain this bait and switch to all of the students it has sought to inspire since the VSE was announced. A "Summer of Innovation" centered around a stale and contracting space program seems somewhat contradictory to me.

How will NASA - and the White House - explain the use of vast sums of taxpayer money to bail out the decisions of incompetent financial institutions on Wall Street and yet not be able to find a paltry fraction of that amount to bail out the future of space exploration that future Americans will benefit from - and participate in.

I just spent a few days wandering around Yosemite looking up at vast expanses of rock such as El Capitan - things that humans have surmounted - and yet still inspire later generations to attempt. Now I have to fly home and witness the slow motion dismemberment of NASA's human exploration program. You will pardon me if I fell like I have been whip lashed.

There are two options open to those who wish to explore the solar system - personally. One is to ignore NASA altogether and promote commercial space. The other is to totally overhaul NASA once and for all. Despite its collection of incredibly skilled and motivated people, NASA is also a bumbling behemoth that cannot get out of its own way. Personally, I think the best approach is to pursue both.

But something needs to change. Clearly the status quo has utterly failed and yet another generation is at risk of missing out on the chance to personally explore space.

It is my understanding that Charlie Bolden worked very, very hard on getting more for NASA. So the blame for these cutbacks should not be laid on his shoulders. He does have a chance, however, to use this opportunity to truly reconfigure the agency in response to this slap from the White House. The last time NASA was in this situation in the mid-1990s, its Administrator simply did not understand that his people were his greatest asset. Charlie Bolden does not have that character flaw.

NASA is simply going to have to do more with less. NASA has little choice at this point than to look for the silver lining in all of this. In so doing, Bolden's people - all of them - contractor, civil servants, and others - need to step up to the task of finding this silver lining - or get out of the way and find something else to do so that others can fix things.

Keith's update: This reader note says it all: "Tomorrow the President and Vice President will be together in Florida to announce they are awarding $2.5 billion (of the $8 billion federal dollars slated for similar projects) to build a high-speed rail system from the Tampa airport to Disney World. It will help people visit entertainment venues at Disney World (Space Mountain), Epcot (Spaceship Earth), Universal Studios (A Day at The Park with Barney)."

To be certain a job is a job - but I wonder how well these new jobs will offset the old jobs being lost in the KSC area. Will workers be able to move from one to another? I doubt it. Also, the fact that the Obama Administration seems to be more interested in moving tourists to see fantasy depictions of space exploration as opposed to doing the real thing speaks volumes. What sort of message is this sending?

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 27, 2010 10:50 AM.

Mars Rover Spirit Becomes a Stationary Research Platform was the previous entry in this blog.

There Is More To All Of This. $5.9 Billion More. is the next entry in this blog.

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