Monday, March 9, 2009

Funding Issues Cloud NASA Future

Wall Street Journal Online Subscriber Content Preview
A U.S. space shuttle slated to blast off Wednesday will carry the final solar-panel assembly to provide power the International Space Station needs to support more crew members, but the mission comes amid uncertainty over the future of America's manned space efforts.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration appears to be losing momentum as it confronts retirement of the temperamental shuttle fleet in less than two years. The agency is also operating without a permanent administrator and has yet to receive the significant long-range funding boost telegraphed by President Barack Obama in his campaign.

Plans envision spending a total of as much as $50 billion to build a new generation of rockets and space capsules able to take astronauts to the moon by 2020 and eventually to other planets. But Mr. Obama's initial budget leaves those questions in limbo and essentially locks in his predecessor's spending priorities.

NASA's travails coincide with stepped-up space-exploration efforts by China, Russia, India, Japan and the European Union. Within the U.S. space community, it has become routine to talk about Chinese astronauts beating their American counterparts to land on the moon.

Splits within the aerospace industry and longstanding management problems at NASA have added to the agency's difficulties. The Governmental Accountability Office recently found 10 of 13 NASA programs suffered major cost increases and delays.

Write to Andy Pasztor at

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