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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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Just to address the inaccuracies in this article...
By voronwe on 4/17/2010 3:36:57 AM , Rating: 2
- The NASA budget was not cut. It was increased.
- Manned space flight was not dealt a serious blow, and in fact there will be more manned launchers coming on line in the next 2-3 years than was previously planned with Constellation (along with good old competition for ULA).
- Plans to go back to the Moon were not shelved due to *current* budget cuts. Plans to go back to the Moon were shelved because we would not have gotten there until 2028 under Constellation, and in the mean time most of the other NASA programs had been zeroed out to pay for it (including advanced research and Mars mission planning).
- There has been an outcry from a lot of the Old Guard against cutting Constellation, but Buzz Aldrin, some other older astronauts and most of the younger astronauts support and understand the move.
- Obama's plans have not changed since they were announced in February. According to Aviation Week and most other analyses, it was always likely that Orion would survive in some form because it was useful for many missions. Although several attempts have been made to develop a Crew Return Vehicle, all have failed. Using Orion allows us to finally have one independently from what the Russians sell us.
- The overall number of jobs in the space program increases, including in Alabama and Texas. Huntsville finally gets to start on Heavy Lifter development (a few years sooner) and Johnson gets to keep Station plus all the other new tech development.
- Once the shuttle is retired, during the interim we'll be paying $50M per round trip versus a little over $1B per round trip for Shuttle. Even Shuttle's biggest fans (I'm one of them) admit that ULA and USA have made it extremely expensive to operate.
- One of the problems that Mike Griffin ran into with Constellation was that Congress won't supply enough money to build several new vehicles simultaneously, so they have to be done serially. Handing LEO to private industry had to happen sooner or later, and it frees NASA's budget up for the next rung in the long ladder.
- As an aside, private space firms in Huntsville (like Dynetics) and elsewhere (like Bigelow, Armadillo, Blue Origin, XCOR, Sierra and Masten) also stand to pick up a lot of new business that simply wasn't accessible before. Bigelow has been trying to find someone to launch his private space stations for years, and SpaceX was started because Lockheed's launches were so expensive.

By JKflipflop98 on 4/19/2010 9:51:46 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, good job coping and pasting all those talking points. Including this one "- There has been an outcry from a lot of the Old Guard against cutting Constellation, but Buzz Aldrin, some other older astronauts and most of the younger astronauts support and understand the move."

"Aldrin said the key to the space program in the future is sustainable colonies on celestial bodies, rather than on orbiting space stations. Aldrin said he wanted to see "permanence on Mars within 15 years," and that Mars' moon Phobos may be the best spot for a permanent settlement."

Yup, permenant base on mars in 15 years = Obama's "maybe make it to mars and back by 2035"

Buzz and Obama see eye to eye all right.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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