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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 porkpie on 3/2/2010 7:28:54 AM , Rating: 2
Huh? You either didn't read the link, or have decided to purposefully misrepresent it. The design is a single-stage nuclear-powered SSTO.

You might have been fooled by seeing a small LOX tank in the design. That's not for chemical power, however...the addition of denser LOX into the reaction mass early in the flight cycle increases thrust, though it temporarily lowers Isp.

RE: The moon
By randomly on 3/2/2010 1:46:39 PM , Rating: 2
You should read the papers you cite more carefully.

Half the total engine power is derived from the chemical combustion.

RE: The moon
By porkpie on 3/2/2010 2:19:51 PM , Rating: 2
There is a 90% power boost when the LOX afterburner is operating. So? It's still a single stage nuclear rocket, and the majority of total impulse is obtained from nuclear power.

Trying to say this somehow "proves" nuclear rockets are unsuitable for liftoff is without merit. We've been building high thrust chemical rockets for three quarters of a century. It's not surprising that our first attempts to build a nuclear one would draw upon that heritage. The very first cars we built looked liked horse carriages also. That didn't mean they *had* to be designed in that manner.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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