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As it attempts to finish the ISS, NASA faces major budget issues

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.

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Moon Mission Costs
By bentech on 4/18/2009 11:53:21 PM , Rating: 2
Why are the costs of launching a new moon mission so high? Historically, in 1972 the last (and most expensive) Apollo mission cost only 2.3 billion in 2008 dollars (450 million, 1972). What new toys are needed that cost so many times an 'Apollo' budget?

RE: Moon Mission Costs
By Skilty on 4/19/2009 8:49:32 AM , Rating: 2
Well I imagine in this day and age, safety for one. Mission parameters is another but I guess because NASA is not only developing Aries I but also Ares V along with the Orion capsule which can carry between 4 and 6 astronauts compared to Apollos 3.

Having seen the Orion capsule mockup it looks extremely similar to the CM from the Apollo missions. Still in awe every time I see the Saturn V at KSC.

RE: Moon Mission Costs
By bentech on 4/19/2009 12:51:34 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I thought of the safety issues, but with over 30 years of engineering know-how and materials/tolerances improvements, I bet they could simply dust off those old plans and get to the moon for a similar budget, and relatively safely. Any improvement to the old designs that is basically 'free' due to modern technology could go in. In other words, if 'getting there' were a priority, rather than building an all-new system, it could be done soon. Heck, ask 'Space Adventures' to do it for 1 billion and they would probably jump at the chance and turn a profit on the whole thing too.

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