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NASA's Orion crew vehicle  (Source: UPI)
Senate and White House compromise

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee terminated NASA's plan to send astronauts to the moon by 2020 by approving the construction of a new rocket for a new mission.

Originally, NASA wanted to send astronauts to the moon through the Constellation moon-rocket program, which is a human spaceflight program that aims to develop technologies and gain experience needed for space travel. In February of this year, U.S. President Barack Obama wanted to cancel the program through a proposal that would be effective with the 2011 fiscal year budget, but in April, he announced changes to this proposal during a speech at the Kennedy Space Center.

Obama's reconstructed plan was to rely on commercial rocket companies to help send cargo and astronauts to space for cheap in hopes of NASA being able to focus on developing more futuristic types of rockets. But Obama's proposal was shot down because of the importance of protecting home-state jobs, and also the strong distrust of commercial companies. 

Now, the Senate panel has settled on a compromise between what the White House wants, which is to see the commercial space industry grow, and what Congress wants, which is to see NASA built its own rocket. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee agreed by unanimous vote that NASA is to both build its own rocket, and plan a future undefined flight at some point. 

There are still large concerns associated with this new compromise, though. Many are afraid that it will end up like the five-year Constellation program, which was cancelled after spending $9 billion because of financial and technical problems that prevented any chance of there being a 2020 landing on the moon. In addition, there is substantial fear surrounding the fact that NASA is stuck having to build a new rocket without the proper resources needed to make it happen.

"The only big-picture question, in my mind, is whether or not the funding is adequate to perform this plan," said Leroy Chiao, a member of the presidential panel last year.

This new bill ensures the continued development of the Orion crew capsule, which began under the Constellation program, while also building the new rocket, which could potentially carry Orion to the International Space Station sometime before 2016. The bill plans to budget "more than $11 billion" over the next three years to set all of this in motion.

According to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a liaison between the White House and Congress, the state of Florida would benefit from the new compromised bill because 2,000 jobs would be made for development of the new rocket and an extra 1,000 would be created for new commercial efforts. With 9,000 expected job losses from the Kennedy Space Center "after the shuttle's final mission" that would occur "sometime next year," this is a bit of a relief and an advantage that the new plan presents.


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By Mclendo06 on 7/19/2010 12:45:35 PM , Rating: 2
In the midst of your tirade there is one golden nugget of truth that bothers me as much or more about this whole fiasco than anything else. That is Florida. Decisions that are being made are purely for political reasons. Generally speaking, as goes Florida so goes the presidency. You hear very little about the number of jobs that are being lost in Texas, and I can guarantee you that Obama doesn't care one iota about it since he knows he will never carry that state. I'm not saying that the jobs in Florida are more or less important than jobs in Texas, it's just that the decisions being made about where to try and reduce job losses are being made solely based on political reasons and not based on what is the best for NASA in general.

Part of me is beginning to suspect that if doing so wouldn't result in any political repercussion, Obama would either eliminate NASA altogether or incorporate it into NOAA as an organization for observing and collecting data on climate change, and claim that he just reduced the federal budget by a fraction of a percent - er - 17 billion dollars - er - 17,000 million dollars. Or just throw it at unsustainable entitlement programs.


"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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