News articles on the recent NASA program changes
NASA budget cancels moon program, endorses commercial manned space
William Harwood - CBS News
On the seventh anniversary of the 2003 Columbia disaster, the Obama
administration unveiled a sweeping change of course for the nation's civilian
space program Monday, killing NASA's post-Columbia moon program and
shifting development and operation of new rockets and capsules from the
government to private industry.
Requesting some $19 billion for NASA in fiscal 2011, the administration
announced plans to pump an additional $6 billion into NASA's budget over the
next five years to kick start development of a new commercial manned
spaceflight capability, including some $500 million in 2011.
Over that same five years, some $7.8 billion will be earmarked for new
technology development, including autonomous rendezvous, orbital fuel transfer
systems and closed-loop life support systems. Another $3.1 billion will support
development of new propulsion technologies needed by future heavy-lift rockets.
And another $3 billion will go to pay for a series of robotic missions to the moon
and beyond to test systems needed for eventual manned flights.
"Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year, people fanning
out across the inner solar system, exploring the Moon, asteroids and Mars nearly
simultaneously in a steady stream of 'firsts," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
told reporters. "And imagine all of this being done collaboratively with nations
around the world. That is what the president's plan for NASA will enable, once we
develop the new capabilities to make it a reality."
No timetables were established for human flights beyond low-Earth orbit, with
deputies saying the focus instead will be on enabling technology development
As for commercial flights to and from the International Space Station, NASA
Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said she hoped a new private-sector launch
system, possibly including modified versions of technology developed for the
canceled moon program, could be available by around 2016 if not earlier.
"We will try to accelerate and use the great minds of industry to get a competition
going and I'm sure they'll want to beat that," she said.
Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, an architect of the now-canceled moon
program, told CBS News the shift to commercial space operations was a
"I'm one of the biggest proponents of commercial spaceflight that there is, but it
doesn't yet exist," he said. "I would like an enlightened government policy to help
bring it about, but I don't believe you get there by destroying all your government
capability so there's no option but for the government to do whatever necessary
to get the - quote - commercial operators - unquote - to succeed. That's not the
way to do it.
"Basically, you're burning the bridge behind you. Even if it's successful, now what
you've done is you've created not a space program for the United States, you've
created a capability to get to low-Earth orbit but there's nothing to do there
because there's no government program. Where's the market?"
Griffin added that "for the U.S. government to deliberately give up its lead in
something which is fundamentally an enterprise of governments ... for the United
States to give up something that's an important part of our national identity in
favor of outsourcing it to commercial enterprises when and as they come into
being is bizarre."
The Bush administration's post-Columbia initiative to finish the International
Space Station and retire the shuttle by the end of 2010 remains intact, with just
five more missions planned for NASA's iconic winged spaceships. Funding is
available to support operations through the end of the year or early 2011 if
The new budget also extends operation of the space station through at least
2020 and increases funding for science and utilization.
But as expected, it halts development of the Ares family of rockets and the Orion
crew capsules NASA was designing to carry astronauts to the station and back to
the moon by the early 2020s as part of the Bush administration's Constellation
The cancellation of Constellation and the near-term shift to commercial launch
operations is a "more radical (plan) than I expected," John Logsdon, a space
policy analyst at George Washington University, told CBS News.
"It represents really a fundamental shift in the way NASA goes about doing
business, from being the direct designer of our space capabilities and then
having industry build NASA designs to being the customer of what industry
builds," he said. "Even NASA people use the analogy to the air mail contracts the
government signed in the '30s. It's going to be a very different way of doing
The Obama administration concluded the Constellation program, which has cost
taxpayers more than $9 billion so far, "was over budget, behind schedule, and
lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies,"
according to a budget summary.
"Using a broad range of criteria, an independent review panel determined that
even if fully funded, NASA's program to repeat many of the achievements of the
Apollo era, 50 years later, was the least attractive approach to space exploration
as compared to potential alternatives."
The independent review, chaired by aerospace executive Norman Augustine,
concluded last fall that the Constellation program, hobbled by previous budget
reductions under the Bush and Obama administrations, was not workable without
an additional $3 billion a year in restored funding.
The panel outlined a variety of alternatives and favored a so-called "flexible path"
approach that called for relying on private industry for manned flights to and from
low-Earth orbit while NASA focused on development of a new heavy lift rocket
and eventual flights to a variety of possible deep space targets, including the
moon, asteroids and even the moons of Mars.
The budget unveiled Monday said the Constellation program took money away
from other NASA programs, "including robotic space exploration, science, and
"The President's Budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a bold new
approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space
exploration that includes:
"Research and development to support future heavy-lift rocket systems that
will increase the capability of future exploration architectures with significantly
lower operations costs than current systems - potentially taking us farther and
faster into space.
"A vigorous new technology development and test program that aims to
increase the capabilities and reduce the cost of future exploration activities.
NASA, working with industry, will build, fly, and test in orbit key technologies such
as automated, autonomous rendezvous and docking, closed-loop life support
systems, in-orbit propellant transfer, and advanced in-space propulsion so that
our future human and robotic exploration missions are both highly capable and
"A steady stream of precursor robotic exploration missions to scout
locations and demonstrate technologies to increase the safety and capability of
future human missions and provide scientific dividends."
In a statement, Augustine said "by allocating the technology resources
highlighted in our report as being necessary, it will be possible to lay the
foundation for travel beyond low-Earth-orbit. ... NASA will be able to focus on this
true frontier and to regain its position as a cutting-edge research and
"While many of us who believe strongly in human spaceflight might have hoped
that still further funding would have been possible, this is obviously a demanding
period from a budgetary standpoint. Importantly, the president's proposed
program seems to match means to ends, and should therefore be executable."
In a startling break with the past, the Obama administration ordered NASA to
focus on a new initiative that would effectively outsource manned flight, turning to
private industry to design and develop the rockets and spacecraft needed to
carry U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.
Between the shuttle's retirement and the emergence of a new manned rocket
system, U.S., European, Japanese and Canadian astronauts will be forced to
hitch rides on Russian Soyuz rockets at more than $50 million a ticket.
"The budget funds NASA to contract with industry to provide astronaut
transportation to the International Space Station as soon as possible, reducing
the risk of relying solely on foreign crew transports for years to come," the budget
"A strengthened U.S. commercial space launch industry will bring needed
competition, act as a catalyst for the development of other new businesses
capitalizing on affordable access to space, help create thousands of new jobs,
and help reduce the cost of human access to space."
The only U.S. rockets currently flying that are powerful enough to step into the
roll of crew transport in the near term are Boeing-built Delta 4 and Lockheed
Martin Atlas 5 boosters used to launch military, scientific and commercial
satellites. Neither family of rockets is certified to carry humans.
Other companies are in the process of developing new spacecraft to carry
supplies to the space station after the shuttle's retirement. But it remains to be
seen how long it might take any of the commercial interests to develop, test and
deploy a manned rocket system.
It also is not yet clear what sort of control and oversight NASA will have in the
new commercial arena, whether astronauts will remain government employees or
private contractors or how the agency's decades of operational experience might
be leveraged by commercial operators.
"I think the primary way it translates over is for the winners in this commercial
competition to hire the people that have the institutional memory," Logsdon said.
"Second, we're going to be operating station until at least 2020. So there's a core
of operational folks inside NASA that will still be very much involved."
Contractors already occupy key positions in mission control at the Johnson
Space Center in Houston and at other NASA facilities, but it's not yet known how
commercial manned space flights will be managed, who will have responsibility
for mission design, safety and execution or how government facilities might be
Bolden and Garver provided no details into how the new program will be
executed, but Bolden insisted safety will remain a top priority.
"NASA will set standards and processes to ensure that these commercially built
and operated crew vehicles are safe," he said. "No one cares about safety more
than I. I flew on the space shuttle four times. I lost friends in the two space shuttle
tragedies. So I give you my word these vehicles will be safe."
Against this backdrop of uncertainty, the shuttle program is on schedule to end
with a final flight to the space station in September. Up to 7,000 jobs in the
Kennedy Space Center are are expected to be lost, along with several thousand
more at other NASA field centers.
An administration official told CBS News last week the new initiative "could lead
to as many as 1,700 new jobs in Florida ... and will catalyze the development of
other new businesses that capitalize on affordable human access to space.
"We will also make strategic new investments at Kennedy Space Center that will
lead to hundreds of new jobs, upgrade facilities for the 21st century, and help
ensure that KSC remains a world-class launch port for decades to come," he
That apparently includes upgrades to launch complex 39 that would support
flights by commercial rockets.
"A major focus of this effort will be to create the 21st Century launch facilities and
infrastructure needed at Kennedy Space Center, transforming the facility to more
effectively support future NASA, commercial, and other government launches,"
the budget summary said.
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, the second man on the moon, strongly endorsed the new
program, saying "the truth is, that we have already been to the Moon - some 40
years ago. A near-term focus on lowering the cost of access to space and on
developing key, cutting-edge technologies to take us further, faster, is just what
our nation needs to maintain its position as the leader in space exploration for the
rest of this century."
But many NASA supporters sharply disagreed and Logsdon predicted a
"vociferous" fight in Congress.
"The President's proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of
US human space flight," said Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.
"Congress cannot and will not sit back and watch the reckless abandonment of
sound principles, a proven track record, a steady path to success, and the
destruction of our human space flight program."
Shelby noted the anniversary of the Columbia disaster, saying "it is ironic that
Constellation, a program borne out of the recommendations of the Columbia
Accident Investigation Board, would be eliminated in lieu of rockets repeatedly
deemed unsafe for astronauts by NASA's own Aerospace Safety Advisory
Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, a Florida Democrat, welcomed increased spending at
the Kennedy Space Center but added that "leaving NASA with no detailed plan
or timeline for exploring beyond Earth's orbit will cede our international leadership
"Though I welcome the investments in infrastructure at Kennedy Space Center,
not knowing when, or even if, the next human spaceflight launches will occur
makes it difficult to retain the Space Coast's highly skilled workforce and maintain
America's international leadership in space.
"The President's proposal is unacceptable, and I will work with my colleagues
from both parties to develop a plan for space exploration that maintains a robust
human spaceflight program, minimizes the gap (between the shuttle and its
replacement), and protects jobs."
Surprisingly, perhaps, astronaut Steve Robinson, scheduled for launch next
Sunday aboard the shuttle Endeavour, said in an interview Friday that "we have
an exciting future. It's not well defined, but it's exciting."
"I kind of refuse to be disappointed in something that hasn't shown itself to be
actually disappointing yet," he said. "We don't really know how we should use the
small amount of money that American citizens are willing to pay for a space
program. But I do know that for at least 50 years, American citizens have wanted
a space program with humans flying in space. And I really am confident that will
continue in some way."
Obama Calls for End to NASA’s Moon Program
Kenneth Chang - New York Times
President Obama is calling on NASA to cancel the program that was to return
humans to the Moon by 2020, and focus instead on radically new space
Mr. Obama’s 2010 budget proposal for NASA asks for $18 billion over five years
for fueling spacecraft in orbit, new types of engines to accelerate spacecraft
through space and robotic factories that could churn soil on the Moon — and
eventually Mars — into rocket fuel.
Plans for a new mission to leave Earth’s orbit will probably not be spelled out for
a few years, and the budget proposal makes it clear that any future exploration
program will be an international collaboration, not an American one, more like the
International Space Station than Apollo.
“I think this is a dramatic shift in the way we’ve gone about particularly human
spaceflight over the past almost 50 years,” said John M. Logsdon, former director
of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University who was one of
about a dozen people who were briefed about the NASA proposal Sunday
“It is a somewhat risky proposition,” Dr. Logsdon said, “but we’ve been kind of
stuck using the technologies we’ve developed in the ’50s and ’60s.”
To pay for the new technology development, the budget calls for a complete stop
in NASA’s Constellation program, the rockets and spacecraft that NASA has
been working on for the past four years to replace the space shuttles.
“We are proposing canceling the program, not delaying it,” Peter Orszag, director
of the Office of Management and Budget, said Sunday.
The proposal would officially end aspirations to return astronauts to the Moon by
2020 — President George W. Bush’s “vision for space exploration” developed in
the aftermath of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
In place of the Moon mission, Mr. Obama’s vision offers, at least initially, nothing
in terms of human exploration of the solar system. What the administration calls
a “bold new initiative” does not spell out a next destination or timetable for getting
In the meantime, instead of using the Constellation’s Ares I rocket and Orion
crew capsule to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, $6 billion
would instead go to financing space taxi services from commercial companies.
Under the proposal, NASA’s budget would rise to $19 billion in the 2011 fiscal
year from $18.7 billion. It would also get additional increases in subsequent
years, reaching $21 billion in 2015. In total, NASA would receive $100 billion over
the next five years.
Whether Congress agrees to the restructuring of NASA remains to be seen. As
reports of the impending cancellation of Constellation leaked out last week,
members of Congress, particularly in Alabama, Florida and Texas, the homes of
the NASA centers most involved with Constellation, expressed concern.
“If early reports for what the White House wants to do with NASA are correct,
then the president’s green-eyeshade-wearing advisers are dead wrong,” Senator
Bill Nelson of Florida said in a statement last week.
Congress may also balk at the price tag. After spending $9 billion over the past
four years on Constellation, canceling the contracts with Boeing, Lockheed
Martin, Alliant Techsystems and other companies will cost an additional $2.5
billion, Dr. Logsdon said NASA officials had told him.
If implemented, the NASA a few years from now would be fundamentally different
from NASA today. The space agency would no longer operate its own
spacecraft, but essentially buy tickets for its astronauts.
Dr. Logsdon said the officials said NASA would evolve into a role more akin to
the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which preceded NASA. The
committee did not manufacturer aircraft, but performed aeronautical research
that was adopted by aircraft manufacturers.
“The assumption is that there are technological breakthroughs out there ready to
be discovered and exploited,” Dr. Logsdon said. “I’m impressed and a little
surprised how large the investment in new technology is planned to be. It does
represent a shift away from developing systems to developing technologies
before developing systems.”
If the approach succeeds, it could jumpstart a vibrant space industry, but it is also
risky. By canceling Ares I, NASA would have no backup if the commercial
companies were not able to deliver.
One likely competitor for the commercial crew contract is Space Exploration
Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX for short. But its Falcon 9 rocket, the one
that would be used to carry astronauts to the space station, has yet to have its
first launching. When SpaceX, a startup led by Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal,
won in 2006 a contract to carry cargo to the space station, the company said it
would have six flights of the Falcon 9 by the end of 2009.
Conversely, another likely competitor, United Launch Alliance, which is a joint
venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has decades of experience
building space hardware for NASA, and its rockets, the Delta IV and the Atlas V,
have successfully carried military and commercial satellites to space. But
modifications needed for carrying astronauts could be costly and the launch
alliance has also experienced delays and cost overruns.
NASA has also not yet spelled out how it would go about verifying that
commercial rockets are sufficiently safe for carrying astronauts. A worry is also
that the decades of expertise and experience within NASA in operating
spacecraft will be lost, and that the commercial companies might stumble as they
A move to an international collaboration would also make future exploration
programs susceptible to buffeting from diplomatic winds on Earth. For example,
after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, lawmakers questioned whether the United
States should continue flying astronauts on the Russian Soyuz rockets.
While more countries would share the cost, an international collaboration would
probably be more expensive and cumbersome to manage, and could be slowed
down by delays of any of the partners.
“I’m optimistic this provides a path to a long term and sustainable and high
quality program,” Dr. Logsdon said. “But I think there will be a lot of debate over
the details over the next few months.”
Obama budget proposal scraps NASA's back-to-the-moon program
Joel Achenbach - Washington Post
The Obama administration is killing Constellation, NASA's ambitious back-to-the
moon program. The decision represents a thunderous demolition of the Bush-era
strategy at the space agency, which had already poured $9 billion into a new
rocket, the Ares 1, and a new crew capsule, Orion.
Both were years from completion. And now both have been spiked by the
administration's 2011 budget, released Monday. The budget includes $2.5 billion
over the next two years to shut down Constellation.
Instead of continuing to develop the Ares 1 and Orion, the administration wants
to invest $6 billion over five years in a commercial space taxi to carry astronauts
into low Earth orbit. The budget would also funnel billions of dollars into
developing new space technologies, such as the ability to refuel spacecraft in
orbit. What isn't in the budget is a specific target for exploration.
Change does not come easily in the complex and highly political enterprise that
is space travel. The Obama plan triggered immediate protests on Capitol Hill.
"The president's proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of
U.S. human spaceflight," Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said Monday. "If this
budget is enacted, NASA will no longer be an agency of innovation and hard
science. It will be the agency of pipe dreams and fairy tales."
Rep. Pete Olson (R-Tex.) said, "This is a crippling blow to America's human
But Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), whose state stands to lose 7,000 jobs when the
space shuttle program ends next year, signaled that he will not fight to keep
Constellation alive: "When the president says he's going to cancel Constellation,
I can tell you that to muster the votes and overcome that is going to be very, very
The change in course is hardly shocking given the events of the past year.
Obama appointed a committee, led by retired aerospace executive Norman
Augustine, to examine options for human spaceflight. The Augustine panel saw
no chance that Constellation could succeed in its goal of a 2020 moon landing.
Administrator Charles Bolden said Monday that NASA will pursue technology that
will enable astronauts to explore the solar system.
"Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year," Bolden said.
Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX, a company that could bid on
a commercial contract to launch astronauts, said the administration was being
realistic in its cancellation of Constellation.
"There is no way there's the appetite for another Apollo-like program with Apollo-
like budget expenditures," Musk said.
Bush Moon Project Canceled
Space Station Would be Serviced by Private Enterprise
Ned Potter - ABC News
It is the year 2019, and a small supply ship is delivering a new crew to the
International Space Station.
The ship looks vaguely similar to the Apollo spacecraft NASA used to send
astronauts to the moon 50 years ago, and the commander -- for argument's sake,
we'll call him Dave Bowman -- has, like Neil Armstrong, a background as a
civilian test pilot.
What's different is Bowman's paycheck. He is not a NASA employee. He may
work for Boeing, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin startup, or another aerospace company.
His firm describes the U.S. government as a "customer."
Bowman is philosophical about his job.
"A lot of people thought we'd be flying to Jupiter by now," he says, "but we're
doing something else that's important. We've finally made spaceflight affordable
New Course for NASA
If the Obama administration has its way, something like this may happen as
NASA changes course under its proposed new budget. The Constellation project
-- ordered by President Bush in 2004 to return astronauts to the moon and
eventually send them to Mars -- would be canceled. The Obama administration
says it was too expensive -- $9.1 billion so far -- and relied on old technology.
In its place, NASA concentrates on developing new technologies for future
exploration, leaving some of its existing functions -- such as launching astronauts
to the space station -- to private industry.
"Imagine enabling hundreds, even thousands of people to visit or live in low earth
orbit, while NASA firmly focuses its gaze on the cosmic horizon beyond earth,"
said NASA administrator Charles Bolden in a telephone news conference today.
James Kohlenberger of the White House Office of Science and Technology
Policy joined in: "While we are canceling Constellation, we are not canceling our
ambitions for exploration."
Some space entrepreneurs said they were thrilled. Others -- especially if they
worried about existing aerospace jobs in Florida, Texas and Alabama -- promised
a fight to the finish in Congress.
Highlights of Obama Plan
Some highlights in the proposed NASA budget:
Extend the life of the space station to 2020 or beyond; it had been
scheduled to be ditched in the Pacific Ocean in 2015.
Spend $7.8 billion over five years on new technologies "that reduce the cost
and expand the capabilities of future exploration technologies," including ways to
refuel spacecraft in orbit and keep astronauts going on long missions without
supplies from earth. There would be robotic missions to the moon and nearby
asteroids, as precursors to eventual flights by astronauts.
Build new heavy-lift rockets with improved materials -- but not the Ares I and
Ares V boosters in the Constellation project. To save money and development
time, they relied heavily on components from the space shuttles, which will be
retired in a year after five more flights.
Spend $6 billion over five years to jump-start private companies to take over
the job of launching astronauts and cargo.
These are major changes for the space effort -- and there will be clear winners
and losers if the White House gets its proposal through Congress.
"I think the new plan is fantastic," said Eric Anderson, the CEO of Space
Adventures, the firm that has brokered flights by so-called "space tourists" to the
space station. "If you have children, I want those kids to grow up in a world where
they realistically believe they can fly in space."
At the other end of the spectrum was Sen. Richard Shelby, R.-Ala., whose state
is home to the Marshall Space Flight Center. Marshall has been managing the
building of the Ares boosters, and years of work on them would now go to waste.
"The President's proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of
U.S. human space flight," said Sen. Shelby in a statement. "We cannot continue
to coddle the dreams of rocket hobbyists and so-called 'commercial' providers
who claim the future of U.S. human space flight can be achieved faster and
cheaper than Constellation."
Obama will also get a fight from Sen. Bill Nelson, D.-Fla., who says he worries
about thousands of jobs being lost at the Kennedy Space Center.
"If early reports for what the White House wants to do with NASA are correct,
then the president's green-eyeshade-wearing advisers are dead wrong," said
The Obama administration replied that NASA's plans under President Bush were
NASA Budget: Fight Looms in Congress
"NASA's Constellation program -- based largely on existing technologies -- was
based on a vision of returning astronauts back to the Moon by 2020," says a
summary from the Office of Management and Budget. "However, the program
was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to
invest in critical new technologies."
"The current program wasn't going to get us back to the moon any time soon,"
Kohlenberger said. He said its goal of a lunar base by 2020 "was nearsighted by
15 or 20 years."
Can the Obama plan do any better? Simply shutting down Bush's Constellation
program will cost $2.5 billion, and create anxiety for thousands of workers who
were assigned to it.
And on its face, the Obama plan is more abstract in its goals. Will young people
be attracted by a program that talks about "transformative technology
development" instead of specifically sending explorers to the planets?
Just to let you in on the reference at the beginning of this piece: Dave Bowman
was the astronaut-hero of the film "2001: A Space Odyssey," and when Stanley
Kubrick released it in 1968, the idea of sending astronauts to Mars by the mid-
1980s was openly discussed in Washington.
"Rather than setting those destinations and timelines, we're setting goals for
capabilities that can take us further, faster and more affordably into space," said
Lori Garver, NASA's deputy administrator, at a briefing today.
"So the moon definitely continues to be an important destination for the future,
together with near-earth asteroids and eventually the moons and surface of
NASA: Good night moon, hello new rocket technology
Seth Borenstein - Associated Press
President Barack Obama is redirecting America's space program, killing NASA's
$100 billion plans to return astronauts to the moon and using much of that money
for new rocket technology research.
The moon plan, which NASA had already spent $9.1 billion on, was based on old
technology and revisiting old places astronauts had already been, officials said.
The previous NASA chief, in selling the old moon plan, had even called it "Apollo
on steroids." The rockets were based on space shuttle boosters.
"Simply put, we're putting the science back into the rocket science at NASA,"
White House science adviser John Holdren said at a budget briefing Monday.
The $4 billion that NASA spends yearly on human space exploration will now be
used for what NASA and White House officials called dramatic changes in
rocketry, including in-orbit fueling. They said eventually those new technologies
would be used to send astronauts to a nearby asteroid, a brief foray back to the
moon, or the Martian moons.
The White House plan was short on details, such as where astronauts would fly
next, on what type of rocketship, or when. However, officials were quick to point
out the failures of the Bush administration's moon program, called Constellation.
It included the construction of two types of rockets, Ares I and Ares V, and an
Orion crew capsule. All were canceled. Shutting down the program will cost
about $2.5 billion, NASA said.
Former President George W. Bush proposed the moon mission after the Feb. 1,
2003, space shuttle Columbia disaster that claimed seven lives - exactly seven
years ago Monday.
Besides redirecting money to new technologies, NASA is getting an extra $6
billion over five years to encourage companies to build private spaceships that
NASA could rent. Many of those companies are run by Internet pioneers. The
companies included in the pilot project include Blue Origin, which is run by
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Another firm already building private rockets is run
by PayPal founder Elon Musk.
NASA will also spend an additional $2.5 billion over five years for more research
on how global warming is affecting Earth, including replacing a carbon dioxide
monitoring satellite that crashed last year. NASA will also extend the life by
several years of the International Space Station, which had been slated for
retirement in 2016. NASA's yearly budget is $19 billion.
NASA said if the private companies work well on their unproven spaceships,
astronauts could fly in them to the space station as soon as 2016. After the next
five space shuttle flights, NASA will have to hitch rides to the space station on
"The truth is we were not on a sustainable path to get back to the moon," NASA
administrator Charles Bolden said in a telephone conference call. "We were
neglecting investments in key technologies."
Congressional officials howled over lost programs and jobs, but it is hard for
Congress to save such a large program that is being cut with redistributed
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., called the cancellation of the moon program the
"death march for the future of U.S. human space flight."
NASA To Get Hefty Boost In Proposed 2011 Budget
Nell Greenfieldboyce - National Public Radio
The White House has been pondering what to do with NASA ever since an
expert panel delivered a report full of options last fall.
The NASA budget for fiscal year 2011 would give the $18.7 billion space agency
a substantial financial boost — an additional $6 billion over five years — while
dramatically changing the direction of future human exploration.
The budget would kill the Constellation program, the successor to the nearly 30-
year-old space shuttle program, which is due to be retired after just five more
Instead, the budget would fund NASA to contract with private industry to provide
astronaut transportation to the international space station as soon as possible.
NASA's Moon Program on Chopping Block
Andy Pasztor - Wall Street Journal
The Obama administration's roughly $19 billion fiscal 2011 budget proposal for
NASA, which kills the Constellation program to send astronauts to the moon,
includes the first phase of what could be more than $9 billion in new spending on
robotic exploration missions and development of a heavy-lift rocket intended to
penetrate deep into the solar system.
In what would be a significant shift for the U.S. space program, the budget also
seeks to set the stage for spending $6 billion over five years to promote
development of commercial rockets and spacecraft to ferry astronauts into orbit.
Reflecting the large political and financial costs of canceling the Constellation
program, the budget also envisions spending $3 billion over two years to end that
initiative. The government has spent about $9 billion so far to develop
In explaining the shift to commercial-style programs, NASA Administrator Charles
Bolden said the new direction would be "good for NASA" and "great for the
American work force" by promoting research and development by a broader
array of private firms, as well as thousands of high-tech jobs. The NASA chief
said the new exploration trajectory—which eventually seeks to explore asteroids,
the moon and Mars—intends "to blaze a new trail of discovery" and focus on a
"renewed commitment to invention."
Over five years, the agency proposes spending a total of $6 billion to promote
commercial rockets and spacecraft.
Despite strong congressional opposition to ending Constellation, the NASA chief
said "we were not on a sustainable path to get back to the moon's surface."
Calling the budget proposal a "fundamental reinvigoration" of NASA's technology
programs, the budget envisions development of heavy-lift rockets and in-orbit
construction and fueling technologies.
As part of the budget briefing, NASA announced that it has chosen Boeing Co.
as one of the companies slated to get seed money for development of new
exploration concepts. Other companies chosen to share in the relatively small
early awards include Sierra Nevada Corp. and a rocket joint venture between
Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp.
2011 Budget Puts Exploration on Sustainable Path
Brian Berger - Space News
U.S. President Barack Obama sent Congress a $19 billion NASA budget
proposal Feb. 1 that cancels his predecessor’s Moon-bound Constellation
program, commits to operating the international space station through at least
2020, and invests billions of dollars in commercial space vehicles and “game-
changing technologies” intended to put the United States on a sustainable space
“This new path is a big change. I realize that,” NASA Administrator Charles
Bolden told reporters during a Feb. 1 teleconference. “But it is not a change from
the guiding principles of NASA. It makes America stronger. It enables us to draw
more strongly on the ingenuity of the commercial sector and create deeper ties
with our international partners.”
After reading his 10-page opening statement, Bolden left the teleconference
before taking questions from reporters. That job fell to NASA Deputy
Administrator Lori Garver, NASA Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson and Jim
Kohlenberger, chief of staff of the White House Office of Science and Technology
“We are canceling Constellation. We are not canceling our ambitions to explore
further and farther into space,” Kohlenberger said.
“This isn’t a step backwards,” he continued. “I think the step backwards was
trying to recreate the Moon landings of 40 years ago really largely using some of
yesterday’s technology instead of game-changing technologies that can take us
further, faster and more affordably into space.”
While U.S. lawmakers representing states and congressional districts with heavy
stakes in the Constellation program swiftly condemned Obama’s plan as the end
of human spaceflight, Kohlenberger and Garver defended the changes as
necessary to putting the program on a sustainable footing.
“Keep in mind we found out during the Augustine review that we weren’t going to
the Moon in 2020,” Garver said, referring to the review of U.S. human spaceflight
plans called for last year by the White House and led by former Lockheed Martin
chief Norm Augustine. “The Augustine report made it clear that we wouldn’t have
gotten to beyond low Earth orbit until 2028 and even then would not have the
funding to build the lander. So we had lost the Moon, and what this program does
is give us back the solar system.”
While NASA's new plan does not set a firm date for fielding a heavy-lift launch
vehicle or conducting the first human missions beyond low-Earth orbit since the
Apollo Moon program ended in 1972, it does commit several billion dollars over
the next five years to developing breakthrough technologies intended to make
space exploration faster and more affordable.
"Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year, people fanning
out across the inner solar system, exploring the Moon, asteroids and Mars nearly
simultaneously in a steady stream of 'firsts," Bolden said. "And imagine all of this
being done collaboratively with nations around the world. That is what the
president's plan for NASA will enable, once we develop the new capabilities to
make it a reality."
NASA has spent $9 billion on Constellation since the program was created in
response to then-President George W. Bush’s 2004 Vision for Space Exploration
Pulling the plug on Constellation and its three early elements — the Orion Crew
Exploration Vehicle, its Ares 1 launcher and the Ares 5 heavy-lift rocket — is
expected to cost NASA about $2.5 billion in contract termination penalties and
other program-closeout-related expenses, according to NASA budget
Kohlenberger said sunk cost is no reason to continue a program that is
“The fact that we poured $9 billion into an unexecutable program really isn’t an
excuse to pour another $50 billion into it and still not have an executable
program. I think that’s what I’d tell taxpayers,” Kohlenberger said. “Instead we are
going to make wise, prudent investments — an additional $6 billion over the next
five years — to really propel us on a new journey of exploration and discovery.”
Of the $4.26 billion NASA is seeking for exploration in 2011, $1.9 billion is
budgeted for closing out the Constellation program, with another $600 million for
closeout costs budgeted for 2012.
Garver said NASA hopes to be able to use some of the Exploration Systems
Mission Directorate’s 2010 budget to cover some of the Constellation closeout
costs. “That would be the preferred method, but we have to work with Congress
to do that,” she said.
In approving NASA’s 2010 budget late last year, Congress imposed restrictions
intended to prevent NASA from canceling Constellation contracts this year
without formal legislative approval.
In place of building Orion and the Ares family of rockets, NASA now intends to
spend $6 billion over the next five years fostering development of commercially
operated systems capable of ferrying astronauts to and from the international
Obama’s plan covers the new investment in part by increasing the agency’s
budget by a like amount over the next five years. NASA’s 2011 budget, however,
would rise just $276 million, or 1.47 percent over this year’s level.
NASA also has budgeted $3.1 billion over the next five years for a Heavy Lift and
Propulsion Technology program focused on first-stage propulsion, in-space
engines and basic propulsion research conducted in cooperation with other
government agencies and commercial and international partners, Robinson said.
NASA intends to kick off the program in 2011 with $559 million.
NASA is also seeking $652 million for 2011 to begin a technology demonstration
effort largely focused on so-called flagship-class projects costing between $500
million and $1 billion apiece to demonstrate breakthrough capabilities such as in-
orbit refueling and propellant storage and autonomous rendezvous and docking,
NASA’s exploration budget also includes $3 billion over the next five years for a
revitalized robotic precursor program that Garver said would include a lunar
lander mission. Funding would start at $125 million in 2011 and ramp up quickly
from there, topping $900 million annually by 2015.
NASA already is subsidizing development of two rival cargo delivery systems
under the $500 Commercial Orbital Transportation Services demonstration
program begun in 2006 and $3.5 billion worth of Cargo Resupply Services
contracts awarded in late 2008. The two recipients of that funding, Dulles, Va.-
based Orbital Sciences Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of
Hawthorne, Calif., expect to demonstrate their systems in 2010 and 2011,
SpaceX has said it could field a crewed version of its Falcon 9-launched Dragon
capsule within three years of receiving funding.
Garver said that at least one large aerospace company has said it could put a
crewed system into service even faster than that.
For planning purposes, though, Garver said NASA expects a commercial system
Bolden said during his introductory remarks that NASA would “set standards and
processes” to ensure that the envisioned commercial vehicles are safe.
“I lost friends in two space shuttle tragedies, so I give you my word these
vehicles will be safe,” Bolden said.
NASA expects to release more details in the coming weeks and months about
how it intends to structure its commercial crew program.
Before leaving the call, Bolden made a long-expected announcement about the
winners of $50 million in so-called Commercial Crew Development money NASA
put out for bid last year. He said Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin, Houston-
based Boeing Co., Tucson, Ariz.-based Paragon Space Development Corp.,
Louisville, Colo.-based Sierra Nevada Corp., and Denver-based United Launch
Alliance had been awarded Space Act Agreements for the development of crew
concepts, technology demonstrations and studies.
NASA Budget Includes $2.5 Billion for Constellation Closeout Costs
Amy Klamper & Brian Berger - Space News
Canceling NASA’s Moon-bound Constellation program is expected to cost the
U.S. space agency $2.5 billion in contract termination liability and other closeout
costs over the next two years, according to sources familiar with the agency’s
2011 budget proposal.
U.S. President Barack Obama is asking Congress to give NASA $19 billion in
2011 to pursue a revamped space exploration strategy that scraps a 6-year-old
plan to send astronauts to the Moon in favor of keeping the international space
station in service through 2020 and paying commercial firms to transport crew
and cargo to the orbital outpost.
In the days leading up to the Feb. 1 release of Obama’s budget request, NASA
and White House officials told reporters that that the agency stands to receive an
additional $6 billion spread over five years.
For the year just ahead, however, NASA’s budget would grow by just $276
million, or 1.47 percent more than it received for 2010.
According to documents released by the White House and sources familiar with
the detailed request, NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate — the part
of the agency in charge of Constellation — stands to receive $4.263 billion for
2011, about $484 million more than it received for 2010.
Of that amount, the biggest chunk — about $1.9 billion — will go toward costs
related to closing down the Constellation program. NASA expects to spend an
additional $600 million on Constellation closeout in 2012.
Commercial spaceflight would receive roughly $800 million in 2011 and
considerably more in subsequent years.
NASA also intends to spend between $550 million and $600 million annually on
early development of an exploration-class heavy-lift rocket and other unspecified
Obama Budget Shoots Down U.S. Return To Moon
Bart Jansen - Gannett News Service
NASA would get $6 billion more over the next five years, but President Barack
Obama proposed that the agency no longer shoot for the moon.
The additional money would focus instead on expanding and extending research
at the International Space Station from 2015 to 2020, encouraging commercial
rockets and developing a new heavy-lift rocket. The proposal shifts the agency
away from its previous goal of using the Constellation program to return
astronauts to the moon.
"Leaving the boundaries of our planet has helped to spur innovation and push the
boundaries of scientific knowledge across many fields," said the president's
budget proposal, released Monday. "Recognizing the importance of space
science and exploration, the administration is proposing to cancel the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration's Constellation program -- which is based
largely on existing technologies and was over budget, behind schedule and
lacking in innovation -- and replace it with a bold, new approach to human space
flight that embraces commercial industry, forges international partnerships and
invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration."
NASA's budget would grow to $19 billion for the year starting Oct. 1, up from
$18.7 billion in 2010.
The budget proposed:
Research and development of a heavy-lift rocket aimed at taking the agency
farther into space.
Technology development for automated rendezvous and docking so that
human and robotic exploration missions are capable and affordable.
Robotic exploration to scout locations and demonstrate technologies to
increase the safety of future human missions.
Research in the budget includes:
A demonstration project for sensors in air and space to better understand
climate change and natural disasters.
Missions to study the moon, Mars and the closest-ever approach to the sun.
Innovations to reduce fuel needs, noise and aircraft emissions.
But the concern for Kennedy Space Center is that the end of the shuttle program
will cost 7,000 local jobs. The budget still projects an end to that program after
five more flights in early 2011.
But administration and NASA officials said support for commercial rockets could
bring 1,700 jobs to Florida, and improvements at Kennedy Space Center could
bring hundreds more jobs.
The budget turns away from the moon. A presidential commission found in
October that returning to the moon would simply repeat the Apollo programâ€™s
achievements in the 1960s and 1970s.
"Furthermore, NASA's attempts to pursue its moon goals had drawn funding
away from other NASA programs, including robotic space exploration, science
and earth observations," the budget said.
Obama Budget Scraps NASA Moon Plan for '21st Century Space Program'
Tariq Malik - Space.com
President Barack Obama's 2011 budget request has effectively shut down
NASA's five-year effort to return astronauts to the moon, leaving the U.S. space
agency with lofty goals – but no firm deadlines – to once again send humans
beyond Earth orbit.
The budget request, released today, would scrap NASA's Constellation program
to build the Orion spacecraft and Ares rockets for new manned moon missions –
a $9 billion investment to date. The request calls for $19 billion in funding for
NASA in 2011, a slight increase from the $18.3 billion it spent in 2010.
The request does, however, pledge extra funding to extend the life of the
International Space Station through at least 2020 and offers $6 billion over five
years to support commercially built spaceships to launch NASA astronauts into
space. The space agency's three remaining space shuttles are due to retire later
The budget announcement occurred on the seventh anniversary of NASA's
Columbia shuttle disaster on Feb. 1, 2003, in which seven astronauts were killed
during re-entry due to wing heat shield damage. It came just days after the 24th
anniversary of the Challenger shuttle accident that killed seven astronauts on
Jan. 28, 1986.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former space shuttle commander, said
that while the budget cancels the program building the agency's space shuttle
replacement – the Orion crew vehicle – it is not trading away safety to embrace
new, privately built spaceships to fly astronauts. It also paves the way for a "21st
Century space program," he said.
"No one cares about safety more than I. I flew on the space shuttle four times. I
lost friends in the two space shuttle tragedies. So I give you my word these
vehicles will be safe," Bolden said. "They will fulfill a critical NASA need, spur
industrial innovation, and free up NASA to do the bold, forward-leaning work that
we need to do to explore beyond Earth."
Bolden said NASA has already made new agreements with several commercial
spaceflight companies to spur their efforts. NASA and the White House Office of
Science and Technology plan to make an announcement related to commercial
spaceflight providers on Tuesday, NASA officials said.
"This new path is a big change. I realize that," Bolden told reporters in a
teleconference. "But it is not a change from the guiding principles of NASA. It
makes America stronger. It enables us to draw more strongly on the ingenuity of
the commercial sector and create deeper ties with our international partners."
The new plan is not without its opponents, particularly in states that have
traditionally been home to major NASA efforts.
"This is a crippling blow to America's human spaceflight program," said
Congressman Pete Olson (R-Texas). "It has taken over 50 years to build and
develop America's ascension to its rightful place as the dominant player in
human spaceflight. That dominance is apparently no longer desired."
Texas is home to NASA's Johnson Space Center, where astronauts train for
space missions and the Mission Controls for the shuttle fleet and International
Space Station are headquartered.
Announced in 2005, NASA's Constellation program aimed at retiring the space
shuttle fleet this year and replacing it with new capsule-based vehicles (called
Orion) designed to launch on Ares I rockets, with a larger heavy-lift rocket called
Ares V launching lunar landers and rocket stages needed for moon-bound
missions. The moon plan, announced by former President George W. Bush in
2004, was aimed at returning astronauts to the moon by 2020.
It would cost $100 billion, roughly the current price tag of the International Space
Station. Cancelling the program will cost more than $2 billion in closing costs,
NASA officials said.
Last year, an independent committee led by former Lockheed Martin CEO
Norman Augustine reviewed NASA's moon plan and found it hobbled by severe
underfunding and delays. NASA wouldn't make it back to the moon until 2028,
and even then wouldn't have money to build the lander to set down on it, the
The committee submitted several options for the president, which included
embracing commercially built spacecraft and pushing aside NASA's current
spaceflight plan for bolder expeditions to the moon, asteroids or Mars.
"The plan released with the President's FY 2011 budget does appear to respond
to the primary concerns highlighted in our committee's report," Augustine said in
Lori Garver, NASA's deputy administrator, told reporters today that the new
budget request provides an overhaul of NASA's spaceflight exploration plan.
The request would set aside $369 million for vital technology development and
test programs, with $183 million earmarked to support the International Space
Station through 2020. The station was slated to be decommissioned in 2016, a
year before the Augustine committee believed NASA's new Orion ship would be
ready to ferry astronauts to it.
The new budget would set aside $3.1 billion in funding to develop better heavy-
lift rockets and more advanced space propulsion technology to explore faster and
farther out into the solar system, NASA officials said.
"What this program does is give us back the solar system," Garver said.
Garver and Bolden did not announce details for new vehicles, specific
destinations or potential timetables for new manned missions beyond low-Earth
orbit. But Garver did say that, if NASA's 2011 budget is approved, the agency
could accomplish those goals well before the 2028 timeframe proposed by the
The agency is hoping commercially built space ferries could be ready to fly
astronauts by 2016, she added.
Beyond human spaceflight
President Obama's 2011 budget request for NASA also spotlights other areas
within the space agency that have suffered in recent years due to the agency's
focus on human spaceflight.
The request includes $170 million to replace NASA's lost Orbiting Carbon
Observatory, a probe aimed at studying climate change, which was destroyed
during a launch failure last year. About $3.2 billion is set aside for science
research grants and missions, including a potential successor to the Hubble
About $146 million – a $20 million increase – is allocated in the 2011 budget
request to support education and public outreach. It is aimed at spurring interest
in science, technology, mathematics and space among the American youth and
general public, Garver said
"There are so many wonderful things that can be done with NASA," Garver said.
"It is the people's program and we're giving it back to them."
Kills NASA Moon Plan, Farms Out Space Ferry (Update3) Share Business
Jeff Bliss & Chris Dolmetsch - Bloomberg News
President Barack Obama proposed scrapping a Bush administration plan to
return astronauts to the moon by 2020 in a budget for NASA that would instead
farm out some space operations to companies for missions closer to Earth.
The lunar program, known as Constellation, “was over budget, behind schedule
and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies”
according to the budget plan Obama issued today.
Obama’s budget would increase fiscal year 2011 funds for the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration by 1.5 percent and support the
development of rocket systems that eventually might take U.S. astronauts back
into deep space. In preparation for those trips, Obama envisions using robotic
ships to find locations for future landings and test out new technology.
Obama’s proposal to spur development of new systems was a “very positive
thing,” John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George
Washington University in Washington, said in an interview. “If this approach is
sustained over the next decade or so, it will give us a better space program.”
The plan to drop the moon strategy has drawn opposition from lawmakers, who
said they feared the changes could risk U.S. leadership in space.
The Obama proposal “begins the death march for the future of U.S. human
space flight,” Senator Richard Shelby, the senior Republican on the
subcommittee that determines NASA’s budget, said in a statement.
Companies won’t have the capability to safely transport astronauts in the next
few years, the Alabama lawmaker said.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who said he also is concerned about
relying so heavily on the commercial sector, will hold a Feb. 24 hearing to
explore the feasibility of continuing some of the Constellation rocket
development, said Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Nelson.
In a preview of how NASA officials may try to persuade lawmakers to back their
approach, Charles Bolden, the agency’s administrator, said the budget proposal
will create jobs.
“We expect to support as many if not more jobs with the 2011 budget,” he said
on a conference call with reporters.
NASA officials declined to give specific destinations or a timeline for missions
beyond a few hundred miles of our planet.
Mars on Agenda
Lori Garver, NASA’s deputy administrator, said a differently conceived moon
mission was possible and the ultimate goal is a Mars landing. Officials also
mentioned flights to asteroids or to a moon of Mars as possibilities.
Nelson said it may make sense to go back to the moon with “robotic explorers”
while focusing on other destinations for astronauts.
“Maybe what we need to do is get out of earth’s orbit and go to other planets,
other planets’ moons and asteroids,” he said on a conference call.
Skepticism about Constellation grew after a presidential commission concluded
last year that NASA would need $3 billion more a year for the program and
wouldn’t get back to the moon until 2028.
Under the administration’s proposal, the space agency’s budget would rise to
$19 billion from $18.7 billion this year.
Rockets made by companies would be used to ferry astronauts to the
International Space Station, whose life would be extended five years to 2020
under the budget proposal. The outpost, which orbits about 250 miles above
Earth, is being developed in partnership with Russia, Canada, Japan and other
NASA said today it has awarded $50 million to companies to develop concepts
for the astronaut taxi service.
The winners include Chicago-based Boeing Co.; United Launch Alliance of
Centennial, Colorado; Paragon Space Development Corp. of Tucson; Kent,
Washington-based Blue Origin LLC and Louisville, Colorado-based Sierra
The Obama proposal is “the only possibility” of the U.S. becoming “a true, space-
going civilization,” said Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Hawthorne,
California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which may compete to
Musk spoke to reporters during a conference call sponsored by the space
The budget, if approved by Congress, would end large contracts for the building
of new rockets.
Major contractors for Constellation’s primary rockets, the Ares I and Ares V,
include Minneapolis-based Alliant Techsystems Inc., Los Angeles-based
Northrop Grumman Corp. and the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Inc. unit of
Hartford, Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp.
“It is not clear why at this time the nation would consider abandoning a program
of such historic promise and capability,” Alliant said in a press release today.
Obama’s budget promotes the use of robotic spacecraft following years of
extensive scientific discoveries in the solar system achieved with investments far
smaller than what is required to sustain humans in space.
The robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in January 2004
for a 90-day mission, are still operating on the planet.
The Obama budget would support the development of satellites that monitor
global climate change, specifically devices that oversee changes in polar ice
sheets. The Science Mission Directorate, which includes climate-change
monitoring, would get a 12 percent funding boost to $5 billion from $4.5 billion.
Obama cuts moon travel, links NASA to private firms
Jean-Louis Santini & Karin Zeitvogel - Agence France Presse
President Barack Obama Monday ditched US plans to return to the moon and
hitched NASA's future to private industry in a budget calling for the space agency
to stay close to Earth and do research.
In budget proposals for NASA, Obama pledged to increase funding for the space
agency by six billion dollars over five years.
But he also proposed dropping the massively over-budget Constellation program
put in place by former president George W. Bush to develop a new-generation
rocket aimed at taking Americans back to the moon.
Citing a report issued last year by the high-level Augustine Commission, which
was set up by Obama to review the US space program, the White House said it
wants to ground Constellation because it was too costly, used outdated
technology, and would not be ready to ferry humans to the moon before 2028.
In its place, "a bold and ambitious new space initiative that invests in American
ingenuity to propel us on a new journey of innovation and discovery" was being
"With this budget and the steps it lays out, the United States and its partners in
other nations, in industry, and in academia will pursue a more sustainable and
affordable approach to spaceflight through the development of transformative
technologies and systems," NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told a news
"We will blaze a new trail of discovery and development. We will facilitate the
growth of new commercial industries. And we will expand our understanding of
the Earth, our solar system, and the universe beyond."
Private industry will take on the role of building the space vehicles that take
humans to the International Space Station (ISS) while NASA concentrates on
research and development -- a proposal that raised safety concerns among
Jim Bell, president of global public space advocacy group, The Planetary
Society, said there was nothing new in the private sector's involvement in
building spacecraft or other vehicles for the government.
"Every government uses the private sector to build fighter aircraft. And the lunar
lander in the Apollo program was built by Grumman, a commercial contractor,"
Bell told AFP.
"The difference here is the magnitude of change: from the rocket to the nose
cone, they're calling for major commercial development," said Bell, who backs
Obama's plan for NASA and pledged to pressure Congress to approve it.
Under the plan, the life of the ISS would be extended to 2020 or beyond, allowing
the US to "keep a commitment to our international partners and develop the full
potential of this amazing orbiting laboratory," said Bolden.
High-tech jobs would be created and the United States would go "further, faster
and more affordably into space," said Bolden.
But Congress has to approve the budget proposals and some on Capitol Hill
were railing Monday at the proposal to axe Constellation.
Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican on a committee that oversees
funding for NASA, said the proposal to ditch the grandiose Bush-era plan had set
US manned space flight on a "death march."
But Jeff Greason, the CEO of XCOR Aerospace and a member of the Augustine
Commission, dismissed Shelby's attack as "over-the-top and not correct."
"What's going on there is a grieving process of admitting that the Constellation
plan doesn't now and never did have the budgetary backing to be completed,"
Greason told AFP.
"That's a truly unfortunate state of affairs but it was not created by today's
announcement. Today's announcement was an attempt to deal with that state of
NASA officials insisted that canceling Constellation did not mean an end to US
ambitions to return to the moon, but, on the contrary, would open the way to
going even further into space.
"The moon continues to be an important destination for humans along with near-
Earth asteroids, and ultimately our destination is the moons and surface of Mars,"
said NASA deputy administrator Laurie Garver.
"We're not canceling our ambitions to explore space, we're canceling
Constellation," she said.
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon in 1969, said where
Constellation was stuck in the past, Obama's plan was forward-looking.
"We've already been to the Moon -- some 40 years ago," Aldrin said in a
"A near-term focus on lowering the cost of access to space and on developing
key, cutting-edge technologies to take us further, faster, is just what our nation
needs to maintain its position as the leader in space exploration."
NASA nixes moon plan, leaving options wide open
David Shiga - New Scientist
The White House is cancelling the Bush-era plan to return astronauts to the
moon by 2020, pouring billions into space technology research and development
instead. But it is unclear where NASA astronauts will go next and how they will
On Monday, the Obama administration announced its proposed 2011 budget for
NASA. The $19 billion budget would cancel the Constellation programme that is
developing rockets and other hardware to return astronauts to the moon, though
the cancellation must first be approved by Congress.
The budget documents and press briefing left unclear where outside of low-Earth
orbit NASA wants to send its astronauts next, and how they would get there
without the vehicles being designed under Constellation.
NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said the agency had not yet decided on
what destinations to pursue next, suggesting that precursor robotic missions
would help determine what locations would be most worth visiting.
"Rather than setting those destinations and timelines, we're setting goals for
technologies that can take us further, faster, and more affordably into space," she
There were hints however, that the administration might follow the so-called
flexible path proposed by a White House panel headed by former Lockheed
Martin CEO Norman Augustine. That option would see astronauts fly to
increasingly distant locales including asteroids and the moons of Mars.
"Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year, people fanning
out across the inner solar system exploring the moon, asteroids and Mars nearly
simultaneously in a steady stream of firsts," said NASA administrator Charles
Bolden at the briefing. Such trips would occur "once we develop the new
capabilities to make it a reality", he said.
Orbiting gas stations
NASA officials gave no clear answer to questions about whether the agency had
any plans to develop a "heavy-lift" rocket, which – at least with existing
technology – would be necessary to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. But
deputy Garver did say some of the billions of dollars NASA plans to spend on
technology development will be directed towards heavy-lift rockets.
"We all believe that the seventh time we land on the moon will be with our
international partners, in a different way, with new technologies," she said,
referring to the 6 Apollo landings between 1969 and 1972.
The agency plans to spend $7.8 billion over the next five years working on
technology needed for human space exploration. Projects could include orbiting
gas stations – which might allow relatively small rockets to send human missions
beyond low-Earth orbit – and advanced-propulsion technologies, such as ion
engines that could slash the transit time to Mars.
Closer to home, the administration is betting big on the ability of commercial
launch providers to transport astronauts to and from the International Space
Station (ISS) with their own vehicles, apparently giving up on the idea of using
agency rockets and capsules for that purpose.
The ISS itself would be supported through 2020 in the new budget, rather than
abandoning it after 2015 to free up money for the moon programme, as
envisioned in budgets during the Bush administration.
The new plan cannot go forward unless Congress votes to approve it, and the
Obama administration faces fierce opposition from lawmakers representing areas
with thousands of jobs tied to the Constellation programme. Republican senator
Richard Shelby of Alabama called the new plan a "death march for the future of
US human space flight".
But proponents of the new plan fought back. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin came
out strongly in favour of it in a statement (pdf) posted on the website of the White
House's Office of Science and Technology Policy.
"The truth is that we have already been to the Moon – some 40 years ago,"
Aldrin writes. "A near-term focus on lowering the cost of access to space and on
developing key, cutting-edge technologies to take us further, faster, is just what
our Nation needs to maintain its position as the leader in space exploration for
the rest of this century."
Obama budget would cut moon exploration program
John Sutter - CNN
American astronauts will not return to the moon as planned if Congress passes
President Obama's proposed budget.
Obama's budget -- which aims to tighten the nation's purse strings in certain
areas while increasing money used to create jobs -- would cancel NASA's
Constellation Program, which had sought to send astronauts back to the moon
Constellation also intended to study the idea of establishing a moon colony. The
program was set to follow the U.S. space agency's shuttle missions, which are
due to end in September.
On its Web site, the White House Budget Office says the program to send
astronauts to the moon is behind schedule, over budget and overall less
important than other space investments.
"Using a broad range of criteria, an independent review panel determined that
even if fully funded, NASA's program to repeat many of the achievements of the
Apollo era, 50 years later, was the least attractive approach to space exploration
as compared to potential alternatives," the site says.
"Furthermore, NASA's attempts to pursue its moon goals, while inadequate to
that task, had drawn funding away from other NASA programs, including robotic
space exploration, science, and Earth observations."
Overall, Obama's proposed budget increases the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration's budget by $6 billion over the next five years. The
president's budget would give NASA a $19 billion budget in 2011, compared to
its $18.3 billion budget this year.
Congress has to approve the federal budget, and a final ruling may not happen
The budget changes will not prevent NASA from returning astronauts to the
moon and exploring the rest of the solar system, NASA Administrator Charlie
Bolden said in a conference call with reporters on Monday.
"Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year; people fanning
out across the inner solar system, exploring the Moon, asteroids and Mars nearly
simultaneously in a steady stream of firsts ... That is what the president's plan for
NASA will enable, once we develop the new capabilities to make it a reality,"
The NASA administrator emphasized the fact that the president's budget would
increase NASA funding overall and said the Constellation program was behind
schedule and over-budget anyway.
"The truth is we were not on a sustainable path to get back to the moon's
surface, and as we focused most of our efforts and funding on getting back to the
moon we were neglecting investment in key technologies to get us beyond," he
Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, criticized the president for slashing
NASA's moon-mission program from his suggested budget.
The move could cause the U.S. to fall behind other countries in space
exploration, he said.
"If they don't push hard now for research and development of the new big rocket
that'll take us out of low-Earth orbit and let us explore the heavens, then we are
going to be falling behind China and Russia, and that's something I don't think
will sit well with the American people," he said in an interview with CNN.
Louis Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society, called that assertion
"ridiculous," and said he's hopeful the end of Constellation would lead to the U.S.
returning to the moon more quickly.
Friedman believes that Constellation is a flawed and bloated program, which
should be replaced with a new program that would get the U.S. back to the moon
Constellation was behind schedule, and a new program offers a fresh start and
puts needed emphasis on space exploration beyond the moon, he said.
"I think the Constellation program probably fell on its own weight as opposed to
any major policy change," he said.
Others questioned what will happen to the money NASA has already spent on its
program to return to the moon.
"I think that some of the things they're working on could be used regardless of
what the program is," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org and a space
policy expert. "Some of it however, I think is just going to end up on the cutting
About $250 million in federal stimulus money has paid for investments in the
Constellation Program, according to a CNN report. NASA's current budget gives
Constellation $3.47 billion in funding, according to the White House Budget
NASA says the Constellation research and technology would be useful in other
NASA first sent astronauts to the moon in 1969, and the space agency's Apollo
program sent astronauts to the moon at total of six times.
Outsourcing space flights may ground Utah workers
Big boost for education, transportation is proposed
Thomas Burr & And Matt Canham - Salt Lake Tribune
President Barack Obama wants to outsource future space flights to private
companies, a move that, while expected, could have disastrous impacts for
workers in northern Utah.
Obama's budget blueprint scraps NASA's Constellation program, aimed at
launching manned missions back to the moon by 2020. That move would also
stop the production of the Ares rocket, which would send a newly constructed
shuttle out of Earth's orbit.
The end of the Ares program could result in the loss of hundreds of jobs at Alliant
Techsystems, a company that builds solid rocket motors for the government near
Brigham City and employs 3,500 people in Utah.
Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican whose district includes ATK's facilities, said
Obama is hammering "another nail in the coffin" of the U.S. rocket program. ATK
employees have already suffered three rounds of layoffs because of expiring
government contracts, with another pending, and this move, Bishop said, could
cost the company 2,000 jobs in Utah and 7,000 jobs nationwide.
"This is a stupid time to cut 7,000 jobs nationwide," Bishop said after a speech to
the Utah Legislature. "This is going to put us behind the Russians and Chinese in
ATK said in a statement that it hopes in the months ahead that Congress and the
administration hold on to a program in which Americans already have invested
nearly $9 billion.
"It is not clear why at this time the nation would consider abandoning a program
of such historic promise and capability -- with so much invested," the company
said, adding that it believes Congress will work toward a budget that recognizes
The Obama administration defended its proposal to end the $3.5 billion project,
saying NASA could not complete the Constellation program without a huge
budget increase and even then the government would have to shift all funding
from the International Space Station to the new space shuttle.
A report by the Government Accountability Office released Monday said the Ares
project is running into technical problems and its costs have grown by $500
million since 2007.
Obama is following the recommendations made last year by a blue-ribbon panel
that said pursuing privately operated space travel could happen faster and cost
less than a government-owned program.
But critics such as Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, say with the retirement of the
existing space shuttle, Obama's move essentially leaves the nation indebted to
Russia, China and unproven commercial companies for all future space travel.
The senator backed the Ares program, calling it safe and cost effective.
"Ending it will devastate our industrial base, put us at a global competitive
disadvantage, and cost us thousands of high-paying jobs in Utah at a time when
we can least afford it," Bennett said in a statement. "The president is taking the
future of NASA in the wrong direction, setting it back several years."
Of course, the president's budget lays out only his administration's suggested
funding requirements. Congress will make the ultimate decisions, because it
controls the purse strings.
And many members of Congress were very unreceptive to the idea of cutting the
program, foreshadowing a political battle in the months to come.
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the ranking Republican on an appropriations
subcommittee over NASA's budget, said Obama was setting up a "death march
for the future of U.S. human space flight."
"Congress cannot and will not sit back and watch the reckless abandonment of
sound principles, a proven track record, a steady path to success, and the
destruction of our human space flight program," Shelby said.
Funds cut for Lockheed Martin’s Orion spacecraft for NASA
Greg Avery - Denver Business Journal
President Barack Obama’s proposed federal budget, released Monday, cuts off
funds for NASA’s Orion space vehicle, a project led by Colorado-based
Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
The development comes as NASA moves toward relying more on commercially
operated human space missions and deeper involvement by international
The Littleton-based division of Lockheed Martin, which won the project in 2006,
oversaw design and construction of the Orion capsule over the past four years.
The company employs about 650 locally and at space centers nationwide for the
high-profile Orion project that was expected ultimately to be worth $8 billion.
Together with rockets being developed separately, Orion was part of
Constellation program meant to replace the space shuttles that NASA is
scheduled to retire after five more flights this year.
“So this budget cancels the Constellation Program, including the Ares I and V
rockets and the Orion crew exploration vehicle,” said NASA Administrator
Charles Bolden said in remarks prepared for a press conference this afternoon.
“NASA intends to work with the Congress to make this transition smooth and
effective, working responsibly on behalf of the taxpayers.”
What that means for Lockheed Martin Space Systems locally isn’t clear. It
remains to be seen whether the agency may fund continued work on Orion in
Lockheed Martin Space Systems officials didn’t comment Monday. The company
issued a statement expressing disappointment, especially given how far along
the four-person Orion capsule was in development.
“Orion is already a mature vehicle preparing for its first test flight in a matter of
weeks. In fact, Orion can be ready for crewed flights to low Earth orbit and other
exploration missions as early as 2013, thus narrowing the gap in U.S. human
space flight capability when the shuttle is retired later this year,” the company
More than 4,000 and 100 companies have worked on Orion, developing new
docking technologies, life-support systems, solar power, avionics and other
technologies, the company said.
“Cancellation of Orion would needlessly sacrifice these capabilities,” the
statement said, adding that Lockheed Martin will continue to work with NASA
throughout the budgeting process.
The new direction for NASA announced Monday also puts other money into other
Colorado aerospace companies.
Bolden’s announcement outlines some of NASA’s push to use more commercial
contractors for human space flight, including a new $50 million fund from which
two local companies will receive money.
Centennial-based rocketmaker United Launch Alliance and Sierra Nevada
Corp.’s subsidiary in Louisville are part of a team that will help develop
commercial ways to get NASA crews to low-earth orbit.
“ULA is excited to support this new NASA program,” said Chris Chavez,
company spokesman. “ULA is interested in providing launch services to NASA or
any commercial company competing for the commercial crew and cargo
programs that are being initiated.”
NASA predicts the shift to commercial space flight will eventually create 5,000
new jobs for U.S. industry.
Bolden noted that commercially built and operated space vehicles have taken
NASA, military and private space probes and satellites into space for four
The Constellation program was created in response to the Bush administration’s
directive to return U.S. astronauts to the moon by 2020 and, eventually, land on
The agency planned a pair of new rockets for human space flight, the Ares I and
Ares V. The massive solid rockets were criticized for being more costly and slow
to develop than the alternative of modifying existing, proven rockets.
It remains to be seen whether the agency may continue work on Orion for use on
some other rocket.
Last year, a special presidential committee, headed by former Lockheed Martin
CEO Norm Augustine, concluded that Constellation was missing milestones and
lacked appropriate funding. More flexible and affordable strategies could be
taken by NASA to further human space flight, the committee concluded, and
explore the solar system more broadly than aiming to land on Mars.
NASA’s budget is increased in the Obama budget proposal by $6 billion over five
years, what Bolden called “an extraordinary show of support in these tough
Sally Ride, a former space shuttle astronaut who was on Augustine’s panel,
praised NASA’s new director during the press conference, saying the improved
funding and changes bring the agency “back to it roots” as an agency that drives
Bolden, a former space shuttle astronaut who flew four missions, noted that his
announcement came on the seventh anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle
He vowed any shuttle replacement will be safe. He also promised a steady
stream of new firsts in human space flight as a result of NASA’s new direction.
“We intend to blaze a trail of new discovery and development,” Bolden said.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems works on more than just Orion and human
space flight for NASA. It builds space probes and satellites for the agency, and
NASA’s new budget could generate more work for the company work on that
The Space Foundation, a Colorado Springs-based nonprofit space industry
advocacy group, sees some positive changes in the NASA budget
announcement — the increased funding, the emphasis on science education and
research, and extending the life of the International Space Station.
But there’s likely to be a great deal of disruption in space industries as NASA’s
new direction gets sorted out, and politicians may try to revive Constellation
through the budget process, said spokeswoman Janet Stevens.
“This isn’t a done deal yet,” Stevens said. “It’s got to make its way through
Eulogies for the End of Manned Moon Missions
John Hudson - The Atlantic
Included in Obama's budget is a proposal to kill NASA's back-to-the-moon
program. When the news broke, it inspired a bout of nostalgia among bloggers
(mostly on the right) rehashing NASA's Cold War-ear achievements. It's also
elicited remarks about America's "frontier mentality" and whether or not the
nation's ambitions are regressing.
Here's a glimpse of today's moonwalk reminiscing:
Let's Not Forget the American Spirit, writes Lance Thompson at The
Minority Report: "America started out as a frontier. Americans are drawn to the
frontier. America needs a frontier...All we need is a goal. Personal, public, local,
or national, the great achievements of Americans fuel our continued progress.
Americans conquered the air, joined the seas at Panama, split the atom, and put
men on the moon. We are more than ready for the next challenge-we eagerly
seek it, and desperately need it."
We Mustn't Retreat insists Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post:
"A vigorous young president once summoned us to this new frontier, calling the
voyage 'the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which
man has ever embarked.' And so we did it. We came. We saw. Then we
retreated. How could we?"
It's Been 38 Years, cries Jeffrey Anderson at National Review: "You know
those great pictures of Earth from outer space, showing our planet suspended
against the blackness, a beautiful blue ball? No one has seen that view since the
Apollo program ended 38 years ago. No astronaut has seen that view since then.
We've all just seen the pictures."
It's Unavoidably Unsettling, writes Clive Cookson at The Financial Times.
Although he sees the decision's merits, he can't dislodge his childhood dreams:
"As a space enthusiast who grew up in the 1960s - and was sure as a boy that
he would be travelling to the moon and back by 2010 - I have mixed feelings
about the demise of Nasa's return-to-the-moon programme."
Change in space for NASA: Renting the Right Stuff
Seth Borenstein & Alicia Chang - Associated Press
Getting to space is about to be outsourced.
The Obama administration Monday proposed in its new budget spending billions
of dollars to encourage private companies to build, launch and operate
spacecraft for NASA and others. Uncle Sam would buy its astronauts a ride into
space just like hopping in a taxi.
The idea is that getting astronauts into orbit, which NASA has been doing for 49
years, is getting to be so old hat that someone other than the government can do
it. It's no longer really the Right Stuff. Going private would free the space agency
to do other things, such as explore beyond Earth's orbit, do more research and
study the Earth with better satellites. And it would spur a new generation of
private companies — even some with Internet roots — to innovate.
But there's some concern about that — from former NASA officials worried about
safety and from congressional leaders worried about lost jobs. Some believe
space is still a tough, dangerous enterprise not to be left to private companies out
for a buck. Government would lose vital knowledge and control, critics fear.
Proponents of private space, an idea that has been kicking around for nearly 20
years, point to the airline industry in its infancy. Initially the Army flew most
planes. But private companies eventually started building and operating aircraft,
especially when they got a guaranteed customer in the U.S. government to
deliver air mail.
That's what NASA would be: a guaranteed customer to ferry astronauts to the
International Space Station through 2020. It would be similar to the few years
that NASA paid Russia to fly astronauts on its Soyuz after the Columbia accident
"With a $6 billion program you can have multiple winners. You'll literally have
your Blackberry, your iPhone and your Android phone all competing for
customers in the marketplace," said John Gedmark, executive director of the
Commercial Spaceflight Federation. The White House has said it will be adding
$5.9 billion to the overall NASA budget over five years; Gedmark believes most
or all will go to commercial space.
Mike Gold, corporate counsel at Bigelow Aerospace, which is building the first
commercial space station and is a potential spacecraft provider, believes the
government should have privatized astronaut launchings decades ago.
"It will force the aerospace world to become competitive again and restore us to
our glory days," Gold said.
Last year as part of the stimulus package, NASA said it would give out $50
million in seed and planning money for the idea of a commercial spaceship.
Several firms expressed interest and NASA will soon pick a winner or winners.
American University public policy professor and space expert Howard McCurdy
said this is not as radical as it seems. The shuttle was built not by government
workers but by Rockwell International, a private company. Then in 1996 the
Clinton administration outsourced the shuttle's day-to-day launch and other
operations to a private company.
"This is something that NASA has been drifting toward in the last 25 years,"
But the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, created after NASA's first fatal
accident, warned that the existing private rockets are not rated by the
government as safe for people to fly on. That has to be addressed with testing
and study before jumping into commercial space, the panel said.
It's not that it is impossible to certify these rockets as safe enough for astronauts
but it is a long process that is not spelled out, said former NASA associate
administrator Scott Pace, now a space policy professor at George Washington
Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation, which sponsored a
competition in suborbital spaceflight, dismissed safety worries: "We don't fly on
U.S. Air Government. We fly on Southwest and JetBlue."
The Federal Aviation Administration, which has a commercial space division,
would regulate private space safety and other issues.
Pace cautioned that Clinton era efforts to privatize parts of the National
Reconnaissance Organization, which builds and operates U.S. spy satellites, as
a failure and this could be similar. He added that there's such strong support in
Congress for the current space program a change may be difficult to get through
New York University government professor Paul Light said: "My general caution
is be careful about what you give away. It's awful expensive to get it back."
But there should be a lot of interest in giving astronauts the ride if the price is
right, Gedmark said.
The leading contenders — most are mum at this point — to build private
spaceships include established aerospace giants, such as Boeing Co. of Chicago
and Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., which built most of America's rockets
and capsules. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have existing rocket families in Delta
and Atlas, which launch commercial and government satellites regularly and
reliably, but for the moment aren't rated by the government to be safe enough for
humans. That may change.
But it's the newer space guard that brings some excitement to the field. PayPal
founder Elon Musk may be ahead of most. His SpaceX already has a Falcon
rocket and Dragon capsule. Other companies being mentioned include Orbital
Sciences of Dulles, Va., Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas and Sierra Nevada
Corp. of Sparks, Nev.
In the 1980s, Tiffany Montague grew up wanting to get into space and figured
she had to work for the government to do that. She joined the Air Force and was
a high-altitude pilot. But now she works for Google, running a $30 million prize to
encourage private companies to build a rover that can run around the moon.
"We're broadly interested in opening up space to everyone," Montague said in a
phone interview Friday. She said Google is "supportive of commercial
spaceflight, we're enthusiasts. But we're not space entrepreneurs — at least not
yet. Who knows what we might do in the future."
Who to watch in private space taxi field
Here are some leading companies that are or could be developing a private
space taxi system to take astronauts to the International Space Station. More
firms may join in.
THE COMPANY: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne,
THE BASICS: Run by PayPal founder Elon Musk, this company has already built
and tested a private rocket, Falcon, and has a capsule, Dragon. It already has a
demonstration contract for private cargo with NASA. It is considered a leader in
the field and has connections with Google.
THE WEB SITE: http://www.spacex.com/
THE COMPANIES: Boeing Co. of Chicago and Bigelow Aerospace of Las
THE BASICS: An interesting pairing. Boeing is one of the oldest companies in
aerospace with corporate history going back to Mercury missions. Bigelow is a
pioneer in the private space business that is developing a commercial space
station/hotel. Boeing has its own much-launched rocket family, the Delta, and
also is partners with Lockheed Martin Corp. in a firm that launches Delta and
THE WEB SITE: http://www.boeing.com/ and http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/
THE COMPANY: Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev.
THE BASICS: A high-tech government contractor that recently bought one of the
early private space firms, SpaceDev Inc.
THE WEB SITE: http://www.sncorp.com/
THE COMPANY: Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.
THE BASICS: One of the first private space companies. It has its own in-use
rocket family, Taurus, which launches from Wallops Island, Va. It also has a
demonstration contract for private cargo with NASA.
THE WEB SITE: http://www.orbital.com/
THE COMPANY: Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., or as part of
United Launch Alliance of Denver.
THE BASICS: Lockheed Martin had been building the capsule for NASA's moon
mission that is being canceled. It is an aerospace giant with a long history in
manned space and has its own family of decades-old rockets, the Atlas. It could
compete on its own or as part of the United Launch Alliance, which is a joint
venture with Boeing that launches unmanned commercial rockets.
THE WEB SITES: http://www.lockheedmartin.com and
NASA selects commercial firms to begin development of crew
transportation concepts and technology demonstrations for human
spaceflight using recovery act funds
NASA Press Release
NASA has awarded $50 million through funded agreements to further the
commercial sector's capability to support transport of crew to and from low Earth
orbit. This step is the first taken by NASA consistent with the president's direction
to foster commercial human spaceflight capabilities.
"The president has asked NASA to partner with the aerospace industry in a
fundamentally new way, making commercially provided services the primary
mode of astronaut transportation to the International Space Station," said NASA
Administrator Charles Bolden. "We are pleased to be able to quickly move
forward to advance this exciting plan for NASA."
Through an open competition for funds from the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act of 2009, NASA has awarded Space Act Agreements to Blue
Origin of Kent, Wash.; The Boeing Company of Houston; Paragon Space
Development Corporation of Tucson, Ariz.; Sierra Nevada Corporation of
Louisville, Colo.; and United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colo. The
agreements are for the development of crew concepts and technology
demonstrations and investigations for future commercial support of human
The Space Act Agreements are designed to foster entrepreneurial activity
leading to high-tech job growth in engineering, analysis, design and research,
and to promote economic growth as capabilities for new markets are created.
Funding for these Space Act Agreements will stimulate efforts within the private
sector to develop and demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities.
"These selections represent a critical step to enable future commercial human
spaceflight," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for Exploration Systems
at NASA. "These impressive proposals will advance NASA significantly along the
path to using commercial services to ferry astronauts to and from low Earth orbit,
and we look forward to working with the selected teams," Cooke said.
All Space Act Agreements are designed to partially fund the development of
system concepts, key technologies, and capabilities that could ultimately be used
in commercial crew human space transportation systems. The selected teams
also proposed matching funds from other sources that would leverage the
The selected teams and awards are:
Blue Origin will receive $3.7 million
The Boeing Company will receive $18 million
Paragon Space Development Corporation will receive $1.4 million
Sierra Nevada Corporation will receive $20 million
United Launch Alliance will receive $6.7 million
The signed Space Act Agreements will fund performance milestones beginning in
February 2010. The aggregate value of all of the Space Act Agreements is
approximately $50 million.
The Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office at NASA's Johnson Space
Center in Houston is managing this effort.
NASA Embraces American Capitalism and Entrepreneurship
Peter Diamandis - Huffington Post (Commentary)
(Diamandis is Chairman & CEO, X PRIZE Foundation)
After 30 years of doing business the same way, NASA is finally entering the 21st
century by embracing competition, capitalism and entrepreneurship. In NASA's
new budget, President Obama and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden have
proposed spending billions of dollars to purchase commercial human launch
services and invest in game changing technologies.
Many of the traditional players have translated this to mean that NASA's "Moon
Mission" has been canceled, that NASA is out of the exploration business and is
making a risky move turning over the 'right stuff' from Government hands to
entrepreneurs and commercial industry. In reality, NASA is making a brilliant
During the past 30 years the cost of getting humans into space has gone up,
while reliability has gone down. Rather than have two or three commercial
suppliers of human spaceflight, we have been solely dependent on the Space
Shuttle. When the Shuttle stands down from service in a year's time, NASA will
need to send American Astronauts to Kazakhstan to launch aboard the Russian
Soyuz at a price of over $50 million per person... Until, at least, new commercial
U.S. vehicles are made operational.
The U.S. Government doesn't build your computers, nor do you fly aboard a U.S.
Government owned and operated airline. Private industry routinely takes
technologies pioneered by the government and turns them into cheap, reliable
and robust industries. This has happened in aviation, air mail, computers, and
the Internet. It's about time that it happen in space.
The President's plan for commercial competition will ultimately take us much
farther and much faster, not only to the Moon, but to Mars, the asteroids and
beyond. Private companies will drive a very high level of safety because they will
cease to exist if they do not. America's capitalist engine drives reliability in our
aircraft, our cars, our computers and will do so in space, as well. Private
companies will also inject innovation and breakthrough technology into our space
program because that is their ethos.
So, I applaud the President's bold decision for NASA to focus not on their past
glories, but on building a sustainable space exploration program that can inspire
all of us. Today's decision has laid the ground for the future Apple, Cisco and
Google of space to be born, drive job creation and open the cosmos for the rest