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Obama expects to be around to see man walk on Mars

The U.S. manned space flight programs were dealt a serious blow when Obama announced plans to go back to the moon were being shelved due to budget cuts and cost overruns. The budget cuts meant that the Constellation program would be cancelled.

The outcry against the President's plan was swift from space program supporters and NASA. Obama quickly began to take steps to alter his plans and called for the Orion crew module originally planned as the shuttle replacement to be scaled back and used as a lifeboat for the ISS. Obama had announced that he would talk about his plans for NASA and the space program in Florida earlier this week.

Obama has now aired his plans, clarifying some points and helping to dress wounds caused when he originally announced his plans for NASA. Obama's plan still calls for a scaled back Constellation program that would see the program continue, but only as a shadow of its former self. The changes still mean thousands in the space industry will be left jobless.

The shuttle fleet is set to retire this year with only three more scheduled flights remaining for the fleet with the last scheduled for September. Obama has promised additional funds to allow NASA padding if a launch has to be rescheduled due to weather. Some hope that the extra funds can instead be used to fund an extra mission.

Once the shuttle fleet is retired, getting astronauts to and from the ISS will be left to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of about $50 million per round trip.

Obama sees the future of U.S. space flight in the hands of private companies. Obama wants a new industry that will see private companies offering transportation services to NASA rather than the vehicles themselves.

Obama said, "The new plan is to harness our nation's unparalleled system of free enterprise (as we have done in all other modes of transport), to create far more reliable and affordable rockets."

San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama foresees manned missions to near Earth asteroids and perhaps even Mars in his lifetime.

Obama said, "[By 2025 the U.S. will have a new spacecraft] designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space." He continued saying, "We'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," he said. "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it."

Obama said of a return trip to the moon, "We've been there before." Obama's plans for the space program still need the approval of Congress. Many lawmakers still plan to fight to keep the jobs that Obama's new budget will cut in their home districts. Obama's plans would see 2,500 jobs added in the Florida "Space Coast" by 2012. Thousands will still be unemployed due to the budget cuts.

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By voronwe on 4/17/2010 3:02:26 AM , Rating: 2
Human space exploration was part of the Democratic National Party platform from 1960 to 1972, and it was vigorously opposed by Republicans on the basis that it was fiscally irresponsible and a waste of money.

Republican space spending has historically been not through NASA but through the Pentagon for defense purposes.

Most of the space program was put into place by Lyndon B. Johnson and Clinton P. Anderson (NM Dem Senator), with help from (and some resistance from) JFK. The space program was pared back heavily by the Nixon administration in the name of fiscal conservatism, and in fact has been primarily oriented toward Low Earth Orbit since the Nixon administration engaged with Congress in a constitutional battle over funds allocated by Congress for the nuclear rocket program. The Nixon administration lost that battle in the Supreme Court, but only after the U.S. nuclear rocket program, and exploration beyond LEO along with it, had been completely dismantled. Manned exploration beyond LEO is, practically speaking, impossible without nuclear power, and highly difficult to the point of being impractical without nuclear thermal rockets.

We (humans) do not currently have the technical capability to support a lunar base, even if Ares V were operational today.

We do not currently have the technical capability to spend long durations in space without frequent support.

In fact, again even if Ares V were operational today, we would not have the technical capability to mount large missions beyond LEO (discounting small missions and payloads landed on the Moon). For human missions beyond LEO, we need propellant depots, which are essentially another form of staging.

Long duration missions and propellant depots are part of Flexible Path, the proposed Obama space program. I have heard references to space-based nuclear power made only obliquely. I have heard no references made to reviving the U.S. nuclear rocket program, I assume because such references would be a big distraction at minimum in the politically-charged climate.

Note that the Space Transportation System (the STS in shuttle mission naming) was originally designed to include the Saturn INT-21 HLV, several space stations in different orbits with propellant depots and both nuclear shuttles (orbital) and nuclear "tugs" to execute orbital plane changes for satellites, take payloads to higher orbits, service the planned lunar base and begin the Mars exploration program.

Fiscal conservatives in the late 1960's saw ending nuclear rocket development before it became operational as crucial to stopping an open-ended program of solar system exploration.

Setting nuclear rockets aside, the space program has historically been used as a Cold War propaganda tool and then as a political tool since its inception. Quite frankly, the Obama proposals are the first time in space program history that political expediency has been set aside in favor of hard core development of the capabilities necessary for exploration of the solar system. It's certainly the brightest outlook (and the biggest budget increase) for the space program since the end of the Johnson administration, whether you're a raging liberal or a stark libertarian.

But don't take my word for it. Please, please, please go research the topic yourself. I've never seen so many inaccuracies and exaggerations on DailyTech as I have in this particular forum, including the original article.

Dave Klingler

By whiskerwill on 4/17/2010 11:09:04 AM , Rating: 2
1960? Are you serious? When Republicans were trying to free slaves in the 1800s, Democrats blocked it. What's your point?

BTW the person in Congress who blocked more NASA funding than anyone else was Proxmire, Wisconsin Democrat.

By porkpie on 4/17/2010 12:26:16 PM , Rating: 3
"We (humans) do not currently have the technical capability to support a lunar base"

Did the US stop teaching science in schools? We've had the capability to support a lunar base since the 1970s.

We do not currently have the technical capability to spend long durations in space without frequent support.

We DO, however, have the capability to provide that frequent support.

Fiscal conservatives in the late 1960's saw ending nuclear rocket development.

Good god, learn some history. First of all, nuclear rocket development didn't end till 1973. Secondly, it wasn't "fiscal conservatives" who stopped it. Project Orion (which could have given us nuclear propulsion for the first moon landing) was killed by the nuclear test ban treaty. By the '70s, NERVA never had a chance of flying, due to anti-nuclear sentiment. If anti-nuke activists managed to block small amounts of plutonium in an RTG from use, you think they would have let a nuclear reactor take off?

And finally, when Bush tried to revive nuclear propulsion with Project Prometheus, look at how the Democratic party (and the mainstream media) fought it.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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