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NASA still unsure how to end Constellation and move forward

NASA has been plagued with financial issues and a continued lack of innovation, but now faces the equally daunting task of leaving behind the Constellation program.

President Obama and numerous space observers have been appalled at how poorly operated NASA has been in the past, with internal struggle and political opposition expected to make change even more difficult.  NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has garnered support from some politicians who said the White House is doing whatever it likes instead of working with experts.

As part of the agreement to end Constellation, NASA is expected to pay $2.5 billion to contractors already working on the Ares Rockets, Altair lunar lander, and Orion space capsule.  However, it's unknown how accurate the $2.5 billion estimate is, even though NASA relied on its own analysts and industry analysts to calculate the price.

NASA originally hoped to return to the moon by 2025, as other space nations plan to send lunar spacecraft and manned missions in the same time frame.  China, Japan, Russia, India, and several other developing space programs have expressed interest in landing on the moon by 2030 -- space industry observers think China will be the next country to reach the moon.

The 2011 budget has likely ended any chance of NASA returning to the moon, with private companies expected to help transport astronauts into space.

President Obama must now try to limit ongoing bickering as he works with NASA, private contractors, and legislators during his presidency.  The U.S. space agency will now rely more on the private contractors until current funding problems are sorted out in the future.

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RE: The moon
By Ammohunt on 3/1/2010 2:35:32 PM , Rating: 2
Despite the fact that the Soyuz orbital insertion vehicles have been cheaper, more reliable and hasn't changed much from the sixties? A modern version of Saturn is an excellent choice!

RE: The moon
By porkpie on 3/1/2010 2:35:26 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not disputing that its a better approach than retaining the Shuttle for the same role. I'm arguing that Ares relied too much on old technology and not enough on new.

RE: The moon
By 91TTZ on 3/1/2010 4:34:53 PM , Rating: 3
What's wrong with old technology if it works? There is no point in making changes unless they're an improvement. It seems that most changes lately have brought unnecessary complexity and cost without adding capability.

RE: The moon
By randomly on 3/1/2010 3:21:28 PM , Rating: 2
You are comparing apples to oranges. The shuttle does more than transport crew, it also transports large cargo.

1) The Soyuz vehicle does not have the up or down mass capability of the shuttle. It's not used to transport cargo.

2) The Soyuz is no more reliable than the Shuttle. Shuttle has had 2 fatal accidents in 130 launches, Soyuz has had 2 fatal accidents in 104 launches.

That being said the shuttle needs to be retired. It's too expensive to operate, it's incapable of going beyond Low Earth Orbit, and the level of safety is unpalatable from many angles.

RE: The moon
By porkpie on 3/1/2010 3:41:24 PM , Rating: 2
Your Soyuz launch figures are a bit dated. Also, you're counting lauch failures from the original Soyuz from the 1960s/70s. A better comparison is Shuttle to Soyuz-U2/Soyuz-FG, which have had no fatal accidents so far.

Probably a better comparison than fatalities is mission aborts though...another metric Soyuz leads on. How much of that is due to NASA's higher safety standards is anyone's call, though no one can deny Soyuz is a simpler, more robust design.

RE: The moon
By JediJeb on 3/1/2010 3:25:04 PM , Rating: 2
I think turning all the operating data from the Saturn project to someone like SpaceX would be the way to go. It would help with their development of engines and capsules and I am sure they would know how to update the technology quickly and efficiently and in a cost effective way. NASA has lost their "gee wiz" enthusiasm and landed more into the been there done that attitude. Those still wanting to accomplish a childhood dream are more prepared for thinking outside the box when necessary to accomplish the task. Let new eyes look at this and run with it.

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