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The future of the U.S. manned shuttle mission is considered bleak, as NASA needs at least $3 billion more per year

The U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee now believes NASA must come up with an additional $3 billion per year to be able to launch manned missions to the moon or to Mars.

The committee said the U.S. space agency absolutely must rely more on private contractors to help fly astronauts back to the International Space Station, and other low Earth-orbit destinations.  Five years ago during the Bush era, it was planned for NASA to get back to the moon by 2020 -- a goal that is extremely unlikely to be met.

Although China, Russia, Japan, India, and the United States all have outlined plans to get back to the moon, it seems like Mars is the true goal for every major space nation.

"You can say that Mars is a destination, but it's really more like Mars is a goal because we're not setting a date," said Leroy Chiao, a member of the 10-person committee, who spoke with Reuters.  "It's saying these are the things we need to do to build up the infrastructure to get to Mars, this is how much money we have now, and we'll see in the next several years what we think we can get done. Then it'll be for the next budget cycles after that to figure out when we might actually get to Mars."

China is expected to be the next country to reach the moon again, according to U.S. space officials, noting there just isn't enough funding going into NASA's long-term manned missions.

Furthermore, the current fleet of space shuttles, which were supposed to be retired in 2010, will likely fly into 2011, the panel said.  President Barack Obama's advisers will analyze the committee's findings, but it's unknown when the president will begin to outline what lies ahead for NASA over the next few years.

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RE: Maybe it's a good thing in the long run
By guacamojo on 9/9/2009 10:20:38 AM , Rating: 5
Hear hear!

IMO, Americans need competition in order to shine. My dad once told me how when Sputnik went up, immediately half of his graduating HS class signed up for engineering school. (of course, probably half of them promptly flunked out)

When it was a race against the USSR, we figured it out. But who's the competition now? No other country has managed to match our accomplishments of 40 years ago. And that's why we're complacent. We need a good hard kick in the a$$ to get going again. Maybe China will do it.

Of course, by the time it happens, US industry might be so eroded by outsourcing that we can't respond. I guess we'll see.

An aside: it'll probably be the youngest generation that picks up the pace. We'll probably be seen as the slacker generations that let the U.S. slip behind. I was surprised to read that the average age of mission control personnel during Apollo 11 was 26. Flight Director Gene Krantz was the oldest guy in the room at 32. That's pretty wild.

RE: Maybe it's a good thing in the long run
By FITCamaro on 9/9/2009 12:07:09 PM , Rating: 4
The difference is your father's class feared the Soviets. Today kids only care about American Idol. Seeing China go to the moon would mean nothing to them. If they even noticed to begin with.

That's what we need to change. I'm not saying we want kids to fear other countries. But to be aware of events and realize the impact they can have at a later date.

RE: Maybe it's a good thing in the long run
By kattanna on 9/9/2009 12:47:43 PM , Rating: 2
we need to take it a step further and simply make getting back to the moon, or such, a reality tv show.

THEN! it will get some attention

By JediJeb on 9/9/2009 2:49:20 PM , Rating: 3
It is really sad to think about it but this is way more true than anyone wants to admit. It seems the only thing the vast majority of the US population is worried about anymore is entertainment. The only reason we work is to buy a bigger TV or take a trip to some place more exciting that last year.

Maybe if the government gave SpaceX and Virgin Galactic $10 billion of the $900 billion of stimulus money and made their effort to be the first commercial group to put a man on the moon and build a permenant base there into an ongoing TV series like Deadliest Catch or Ice Road Truckers then we would be there in a few years. Take the add revenue from the show and put it back into funding the space project and it would have tons of money behind it.

By Felofasofa on 9/9/2009 9:21:02 PM , Rating: 3
What has got you so damn scared about China going to the moon? Why the need for one-upmanship? Your fear is as transparent as it is unsophisticated. A bit like you ideas on freedom, you know when you can own a gun and shoot dead any bugger that threatens your freedom. Oh the irony! The world is changing, elevate your thinking if you desire leadership.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs
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