Obama Cuts NASA’s Moon Spacecraft Program
[Satellite TODAY 02-02-10] The White House has terminated NASA’s work on Orion, the follow-up vehicle to the Space Shuttle; ended development on two NASA rockets designed to fly manned missions to the moon; and will hand over space transportation and future human exploration mission to private commercial companies, according to President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2010 governmental budget, released Feb. 1.
NASA, which receives $18 billion for its yearly budget, will redirect funds allocated for the Constellation program to research projects that include robotics and other technologies needed to prepare for an eventual human mission to Mars. According to NASA, the agency already has spent $9 billion on Constellation and likely would owe millions more to cancel existing contracts with prime contractors ATK Launch Systems, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Boeing. Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor on the Orion capsule.
The decision to cut NASA’s moon landing program initially was co-sponsored by a presidential space advisory panel created in 2009, which advised the president to cut $3 billion in boost funding that the program was set to receive. The board also recommended NASA help commercial firms develop space taxis to ferry crewmembers to and from the space station, a service the United States currently pays Russia to provide at a cost of $50 million a seat. NASA already has contracts with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences to deliver cargo to the station.
In a statement, Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Bretton Alexander said that turning over space transportation to the private sector would create more jobs leveraged by private investments. “Commercial crew will create thousands of high-tech jobs in the United States, especially in Florida, while reducing the spaceflight gap and preventing us from sending billions to Russia.”
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