construction of the International Space Station is completed in 2010,
the three space shuttles that make up NASA's fleet will be retired.
The shuttle fleet retirement opens up a several year gap that will
force the U.S. space agency to rely on the Russian space program to
transport supplies and astronauts to the ISS.
spaceflight activities are nonetheless
at a tipping point, primarily due to a mismatch of goals and
resources," according to the Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of
a Great Nation report. "Either additional funds need to be
made available or a far more modest program involving little or no
exploration needs to be adopted."
The U.S. space agency
has put high hopes on its Ares I rockets and Orion spacecraft, but
the project severely lacks funds, which has led some to speculate the
next-generation launch capsule is a mistake. The timing of the
report's release has proven to be interesting -- Ares is expected to
make its first test flight later this month.
future of NASA is now squarely in President Barack Obama's hands,
with the president's staff calling on space experts to share their
thoughts and ideas. Congress and the president will now meet to
discuss the possibility of boosting NASA's $18.7 billion annual
budget to $21.7 billion.