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Ares 1-X launch; October 28, 2009  (Source: NASA)
Obama's 2011 budget proposal is expected to face stiff opposition

America's space program is at a crossroads. This year, the Space Shuttle fleet is expected to be retired after nearly 30 years of ferrying astronauts and equipment into space. In addition, there have been calls to have its immediate successor -- the Ares I launch vehicle which would be topped with an Orion crew capsule -- shelved altogether.

A 155-page report issued in November 2009 by the Augustine Panel made a number of recommendations on which direction to steer NASA in the future. The recommendations included 1) hitching rides into space using spacecraft from other nations or private contractors, 2) keeping the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs alive, albeit in more limited roles, and 3) shifting the focus from returning to the moon and instead aiming for Mars.

The Augustine Panel also made it clear that the estimated $145 billion cost to return to the moon by 2020 would not be possible given NASA's $18.7 billion yearly allowance for all operations.

According to a new report by Space News, it appears that the Ares 1 launch vehicle and the Orion crew capsule may be put on the chopping block. President Obama is not expected to give NASA the $1 billion increase in its yearly budget that had been hoped for to help further develop the Ares program.

President Obama's 2011 budget for NASA aligns closely with the recommendations of the Augustine Panel. The budget calls for the the use of commercial spacecraft and rockets to carry astronauts into space instead of relying on the behind schedule, cost-overrun Ares program. Another Augustine Panel carryover is the decision to bypass the moon and instead gun for near-Earth asteroids and onward to Mars.

The Wall Street Journal says that the efforts to initialize the private sector -- including startup firms -- for carrying astronauts into space will be a "multi-year, multi-billion-dollar initiative". Private firms are expected to receive roughly $200 million during the first phase of the program. The total amount doled out within the first five years could balloon to more than $3.5 billion according to sources familiar with the details of the budget. The funds for the private ventures would be pulled from NASA's yearly $18.7 billion budget.

Industry stalwarts like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are expected to benefit from this new initiative, but smaller firms like Space Exploration Technologies would also be vying for NASA dollars.

Not surprisingly, there is opposition to the there mere mention of NASA outsourcing crew vehicles to the private sector. Charles Precourt, a senior exec at Alliant Tech Systems remarked that such proposals are "really radical" and that they are "extremely high risk". In addition, Precourt said that whatever option is selected for the future direction of NASA must be accompanied by a subsequent increase in its budget.

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RE: Here's what I make of it
By PrinceGaz on 1/25/2010 11:29:30 AM , Rating: -1
I'm pretty sure that NASA and space-research has contributed a lot more to most ordinary people than military-research has, and for a tiny fraction of the cost. There's lots of things we use every day that came out of space-research or were greatly improved by it such as integrated-circuits essential for almost everything these days, and microwave ovens essential for fast and easy cooking, whereas the vast majority of what comes out of military-research is useful only for power-mad dictators.

Given the cold-war ended decades ago and economic might is now more important than military might, I'd rather see money spent on non-military research as we have good enough bombs already.

RE: Here's what I make of it
By ClownPuncher on 1/25/2010 12:27:51 PM , Rating: 2
Military advancements for civilian life often come in the medical field, many innovations have come from the military for treating wounds and other illnesses.

RE: Here's what I make of it
By Spookster on 1/25/2010 12:58:32 PM , Rating: 3
By PrinceGaz on 1/25/2010 11:29:30 AM , Rating: 1

I'm pretty sure that NASA and space-research has contributed a lot more to most ordinary people than military-research has

I mean this in the nicest of ways but that's about the most ignorant statement I've seen in awhile. You should maybe research the facts before making such in uninformed statement. Aside from the obvious transfers of weapons and armor related equipment being developed by the military that is now in use by your local police forces and such there are numerous things you have an use now that was made possible by the military.

Do you like using the Internet? You can thank the military for that.

Do you like using GPS equipment? You can thank the military for that.

Those are just 2 right off the top of my head. You can thank the military for alot of technology and conveniences you have today. There are just too many things to list.

RE: Here's what I make of it
By WW102 on 1/25/10, Rating: 0
RE: Here's what I make of it
By Spookster on 1/26/2010 2:03:55 AM , Rating: 1
No and No. As much as Al would like to take credit for what Darpa did he most definitely did not invent the Internet.

RE: Here's what I make of it
By WW102 on 1/26/2010 9:38:19 AM , Rating: 2
It was a joke dumbass.

RE: Here's what I make of it
By Spookster on 1/31/2010 2:15:06 AM , Rating: 2
Your lack of intelligence shows when you have to resort to name calling.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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