The Obama Administration has moved to scrap NASA’s ambitious but over-budgeted back-to-moon programme citing its economic non-viability and indicated it wants the space agency to spend towards longer-range research.
$ 9 billion has already been spent on the Bush-era programme which the administration has proposed to scrap in the budget and has also proposed to invest $ 6 billion over five years in a commercial space taxi to carry astronauts into low Earth orbit.
“Let me be clear about what is happening at NASA. The Constellation programme, which is over budget and behind schedule, was intended to do what we’ve already done, which is return a man or woman to the moon,” said Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, explaining why the Obama Administration decided to scrap this project.
“We believe in the future of human space flight. We believe NASA can inspire Americans and lead to scientific advances. So we do have actually a small budget increase for NASA,” he argued.
He said the administration wants to redirect expenditure towards longer-range R&D, advanced robotics, and find those new technologies that will allow scientists to go further in space and not just repeat an already achieved feat, instead of continuing to develop the Ares 1 and Orion for back to moon mission.
At a news conference NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said the programme was planning to use an approach similar to Apollo to return astronauts to the Moon some 50 years after that programme’s triumphs.
The administration has cited the Augustine Committee report while proposing to scrap the moon mission.
“The Augustine Committee observed that this path was not sustainable, and the President agrees. They found that Constellation key milestones were slipping and that the programme would not get us back to the moon in any reasonable time or within any affordable cost,” he said.
The Augustine Committee found “there are insufficient funds to develop the lunar lander and lunar surface systems until well into the 2030s, if ever“.
”... And as we focused so much of our effort and funding on just getting to the Moon, we were neglecting investments in the key technologies that would be required to go beyond. So this budget cancels the Constellation Program, including the Ares I and V rockets and the Orion crew exploration vehicle,” he said.
The budget would also funnel billions of dollars into developing new space technologies, such as the ability to refuel spacecraft in orbit.
“NASA will accelerate and enhance its support for the commercial spaceflight industry to make travel to low Earth orbit and beyond more accessible and more affordable,” he said.