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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 stromgald30 on 3/1/2010 8:35:52 PM , Rating: 3
I think there's a misconception about NASA's job. NASA is supposed to innovate, not run a day-to-day operations (i.e. transport to Low Earth Orbit) efficiently. They are not supposed to make money in the business sense. There shouldn't be any concern about what is 'affordable'.

If you talk to many experts, or read what former NASA administrators (the real ones that were engineers at some point) have to say, they all agree that travel to LEO should never have been NASA's job beyond 1990. They should've moved that to the private sector decades ago just like what they did with communications satellites back in the 70s. NASA just held onto control of US spaceflight way too long.

Although I disagree with Obama's method of cutting NASA's LEO capability (cutting it cold turkey, no easing into/helping private space companies), it's not a new (or bad) idea to move human spaceflight to the private sector. NASA should be focusing on the moon, because that is far beyond what any private company is capable of and still requires quite a bit of innovation.

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