February 2, 2010
Astronaut Gene Cernan weighs in on Obama eliminating funds for manned lunar missions. Follow UFO Report on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/uforeport2009
Barack Obama to drop Nasa moon mission in budget cutbacks
Reports say planned human flights to the moon and Mars likely to be ditched in effort to rein in US deficit
Sam Jones and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Monday 1 February 2010 - http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/feb/01/barack-obama-nasa-moon-budget
Nasa's plans to send a manned mission to the moon and launch the US into a bold new era of space exploration are likely to remain on the ground today when Barack Obama unveils his budget.
The president wants to cut back or abandon 120 government programmes to help rein in the US deficit among them the funding of the US space administration as part of the $3.8tn (Â£2.4tn) budget.
According to the Washington Post, Obama will seek to shelve the $81bn Constellation programme, which called for a return to the moon by 2020 and human landings on Mars by the middle of the century. The plans were laid out by his predecessor, George Bush, in 2004.
The budget could also spell the end for Nasa's successor to the space shuttle, the Ares 1 rocket, which has already cost billions of dollars to develop.
The government will instead call for $6bn to be spent over five years to develop a commercial craft to transport astronauts into orbit. Such a move would mark a sea change in how Nasa works, forcing it to rely on a private company to design and manufacture a spacecraft.
Michael Griffin, a former Nasa administrator who championed the Constellation programme, told the Post the budget would prevent the US from being "a significant player in human space flight for the foreseeable future".
"The path that they're on with this budget is a path that can't work."
While commercial firms such as SpaceX and Orbital Sciences had a role to play in space flight, they were not ready to take astronauts into orbit, he said.
"One day it will be like commercial airline travel, just not yet. It's like 1920. Lindbergh hasn't flown the Atlantic, and they're trying to sell 747s to Pan Am."
His remarks were dismissed by John Gedmark, executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
"The defence department began using commercial rockets a long time ago to launch priceless national security satellites that our troops' lives depend on," he said. "If the Pentagon can trust private industry with this responsibility, we think Nasa can too."
Yesterday, a White House spokesman said the president's commitment to a "robust 21st century space programme" would be reflected in the budget.
"Nasa is vital not only to spaceflight, but also for critical scientific and technological advancements," he said. "The expertise at Nasa is essential to developing innovative new opportunities, industries, and jobs. The president's budget will take steps in that direction."
An expert panel appointed by the president last year concluded that Nasa would need another $3bn a year to conduct a functional human spaceflight programme three times the amount they are to receive in the budget.
The panel said the Constellation programme would not have the money to fulfil its aim of a moon landing in 2020, the first such mission since the last Apollo lunar mission in 1972.
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