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NASA budget favors private spaceship over shuttle replacement  (Source: NASA)
Budgeted funds have been redistributed

The current budget for NASA that will be used in fiscal 2012 is under some intense debate by those close to the agency. NASA chief Charlie Bolden went to Capitol Hill recently to defend the budget that NASA wants for 2012 against those in Congress that think the budget doesn't adhere closely enough to the outlines that were approved last year.

The debate around the budget has to do with how much funds will be offered to encourage the development of commercial spacecraft, and how much of the money will be put towards building a new heavy lift rocket that could be used to send astronauts into orbit and to the ISS. The heavy lift rocket was being viewed as a potential backup to the commercial spacecraft and private craft like the SpaceX capsule that became the first private spacecraft to hit orbit.

The NASA Authorization bill that was signed into law last year by Obama and set aside money from NASA to fund privately-developed spacecraft that would potentially take over after the final space shuttle mission. The problem some have with the budget that is being outlined for NASA is that it puts less money into the development of the next-generation spacecraft for NASA and more money into funding private development.

The total budget for NASA for fiscal 2012 has the backing of Obama and will lock NASA at 2010 levels amounting to $18.7 billion.

"While last year's Authorization Act was by no means a perfect bill, it did clearly articulate Congress' intention: that NASA pursue a means of transportation that builds on all the work that’s been done over the past five years," said the committee's ranking Democratic member, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas). "I do not see it reflected in the proposed NASA budget request."

Committee chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas) said, "The new budget proposal disregards — yes, ignores — our authorization law."

"I get your message loud and clear and so does the president," Bolden said. "I think the budget does, in fact reflect following your guidance." Bolden does admit the funds were redistributed in the budget. He continued saying, "Because these are tough fiscal times we also had to make some difficult choices. Reductions are necessary in some areas so we can invest in our future."

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why build a heavy lift expendable rocket?
By Bubbacub on 3/3/2011 3:28:35 PM , Rating: 2
Another thing i don't understand is the emphasis placed on the need for a ultra heavy lift launcher. We have the iss. We thus have a base in low earth orbit where an interplanetary vessel can be constructed. If we want to go to the moon then we should send three or four Delta IV rockets to send up an empty earth departure stage, a lunar lander and some fuel tanks. Assemble the mission at the iss. Send the crew from the iss. This isn't the sixties, in orbit docking isn't a crazy risky technology, its something that we let automated robots do eg the european ATV.

The money saved by not building any more heavy lift rockets could pay for the development of some genuinely innovative interplanetary technologies. Vasimir is a good example of a great idea which isn't getting the funding it needs.

Sometimes I think NASA is more interested in needlessly building complex rockets than in actually exploring space.

By kattanna on 3/3/2011 3:48:49 PM , Rating: 2
Sometimes I think congress is more interested in needlessly building complex rockets that employ thousands of their constituents than in actually exploring space

there.. corrected it for you

By delphinus100 on 3/3/2011 9:37:20 PM , Rating: 2
If we want to go to the moon then we should send three or four Delta IV rockets to send up an empty earth departure stage, a lunar lander and some fuel tanks. Assemble the mission at the iss.

Pretty much like this...

RE: why build a heavy lift expendable rocket?
By mellomonk on 3/4/2011 7:47:44 AM , Rating: 2
If you are going to anything productive in space, let alone do any real work beyond orbit, there is no getting around the heavy lift needs. Sure you could do it with Deltas, but at huge cost. It is just not efficient to do it that way. The heavy lift capability lowers your cost per pound to orbit. You gain efficiency in ground handling, packaging and a myriad of other ways. The ISS would have been significantly cheaper and quicker to build if a vehicle like the Aries V had been available when it was designed and constructed. You could carry everything you need to build a house in a sports car if don't mind making a lot of trips, but a big truck sure makes things easier, and cheaper.

The new private sector launchers are just getting a grip on getting to orbit. It is going to be a long time until they are ready to do the heavy lifting. A fair portion of the money needed to build the Aries V has already been spent. New test stands, five segment boosters, new stir welding manufacturing capability are already in place from previous Constellation funding. The Aries V already had planetary scientists licking their lips with possibilities. Truly monumental space telescopes, The ability to launch multiple heavy packages on a single vehicle. Picture a half dozen next gen GPS satellites with their insertion stages being launched on a single flight. A heavy lift launcher gives us capabilities we even thought of since we were forced to confine our dreams to the dimensions of a shuttle bay.

By voronwe on 3/5/2011 10:22:47 PM , Rating: 3
Mellomonk, while I'm a big fan of HLVs, Ares V didn't get as far as you seem to think. The vehicle design wouldn't even be defined until March 2012 at the earliest, with a first Preliminary Design Review taking place in 2013. First and only test flight wasn't planned until 2018, and the Augustine panel seemed to think the program was actually three years behind schedule.

Heck, real work on Ares V wasn't scheduled to start until after Station had been deorbited.

I've never figured out whether the Bush Administration really intended to build Constellation, or whether it was just a political show and a big chunk of money to legislative supporters. If they intended to build it, why did they cut NASA's budget right after they announced we were going back to the Moon?

Constellation had the potential to bury the entire manned space program, permanently. Congress is still addicted to all that lucre; they've legislated their own design for a follow-on HLV. It WILL have solid boosters made in Utah, and liquid engines from Alabama; Congress says so.

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