Obama Calls For New Space Mission

President Obama said NASA suffers from "drift," adding that NASA must have "a new mission that is appropriate for the 21st century," the Orlando Sentinel reported.

He also will appoint a new NASA administrator soon to succeed Mike Griffin, a Bush administration appointee whom Obama decided not to retain in the top space post, Obama said in briefing regional reporters.

Whomever Obama chooses must think through what the NASA core mission should be and what should be "the next great adventures and discoveries" of the space program, the president said.

The White House will refrain until then from making any major plans for the space program, he said.

Obama didn’t say specifically whether President Bush’s vision of manned voyages to the moon by 2020, and after that to Mars and beyond, may be dead, taking just one question on space.

In his federal government budget outline for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, Obama did endorse Bush’s decision to jettison the space shuttle fleet next year. That leaves a half-decade gap until the next U.S. spaceship system, Orion-Ares, can be readied for its first manned flight. To be sure, Obama did indicate that one additional mission to take the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station may be added to the space shuttle missions manifest next year, under certain conditions. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, March 2, 2009.)

Further, Obama didn’t say in briefing regional reporters whether he will retain the Constellation Program rocket development effort, Ares I, which involves separate segments of the lifter being developed by The Boeing Co. [BA], Alliant Techsystems Inc. [ATK] and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a unit of United Technologies Corp. [UTX]. One alternative the Obama White House is mulling instead would use an existing military lifter, the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles — Delta IVs and Atlas Vs — by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], because they are already developed and therefore cheaper.

(However, it wouldn’t perform equally the functions of Ares I. Please see full story in this issue.)

As well, Obama may decide whether to extend the life of the $100 billion International Space Station beyond 2015.

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