The signals coming from a presidential commission compiling recommendations for the future of NASA's manned space program are alarming, particularly for communities like Houston that have a large economic stake riding on the outcome.
At a public meeting in Washington last week in preparation for delivering its final report to the White House later this month, members of the 10-person Human Space Flight Plans Committee said the space agency lacks the financial fuel to support efforts to put astronauts on the moon and Mars in the relatively near future. As they whittled down the potential options for President Barack Obama, comments were grim.
According to commission chairman Norman Augustine, a retired Lockheed Martin CEO, “Our view is that it will be difficult with the current budget to do anything that's terribly inspiring in the human space flight area.”
Panel member and former astronaut Sally Ride concurred. “So far, we haven't found a scenario that includes exploration that's viable.”
As diagrammed by the commission, NASA's current time lines for developing the $81 billion Constellation program, including a new generation of Ares rockets to propel the Orion crew exploration vehicle, are unrealistic.
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