A report released by the Congressional Budget Office indicates NASA faces continued manned launch delays and budget issues that could delay several of NASA's immediate space plans over the next 15 years.
The full report, "The Budgetary Implications of NASA's Current Plans for Space Exploration," is available here [PDF] and outlines all of the threats facing NASA over the next few years. It reports that NASA's current budget of $18 billion per year isn't enough, and more funds are necessary for the U.S. space agency to stay relevant in an evolving space industry.
NASA hopes to return to the moon by 2020, but is unlikely to be able to do this with current budget numbers given to NASA. The U.S. space agency continues to try and complete the International Space Station (ISS) before the shuttle is retired.
"If NASA's funding was maintained at $19.1 billion annually and the agency realized cost growth in its program's consistent with the average for 72 of its past programs, its planned schedules for spaceflight programs would be delayed," according to the report. "In particular, the initial operating capability for Ares 1 and Orion would be pushed to late 2016, the return of humans to the moon would slip to 2023, and 15 of 79 science missions would be delayed beyond 2025."
It's possible a delay to the science missions could help offer a 10 percent bump up to $21.1 billion to the space budget each year. Regardless of its possible decisions, it'll be very difficult for the U.S. space agency to try and launch future budgets without eliminating or delaying a few missions.
Furthermore, the shuttle retirement will cause thousands of people at the Kennedy Space Center and Space Coast to lose their jobs after 2010.
In a separate report, an independent safety panel officially eliminated the idea of extending the life of the current generation of shuttles, which is scheduled to end next year. Its life line shouldn't even be extended despite the fact that budget issues could delay the Orion next-generation shuttle past 2015. NASA must either receive additional funds or a bit more time for construction to be completed.