Jacqui Goddard in Miami February 2, 2010
Nasa will become “an agency of pipe dreams and fairy tales” under proposals by President Obama that would kill off plans for returning Man to the Moon, critics said yesterday.
Spelling out a controversial new vision for space exploration as part of his $3.8 trillion (£2.4 trillion) budget proposal to Congress yesterday, Mr Obama called for a halt to Constellation, the project that aims to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2020 and has already cost $9 billion.
The International Space Station, which was due to be scrapped in 2016, would get a five-year reprieve, and the task of getting American astronauts there and back would be privatised, courtesy of an extra $6 billion of funding, while Nasa works on developing new technologies for longer-term space exploration.
The strategy constitutes 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”, Mr Obama promised.
But battle lines are already being drawn in Congress. Constellation is but one casualty of the President’s budget proposal, which aims to trim domestic spending while boosting funds for war and relying on $1.3 billion of new borrowing to help lever America out of economic crisis.
“The President’s proposed Nasa budget begins the death march for the future of US human space flight. The cancellation of the Constellation programme and the end of human space flight does represent change — but it is certainly not the change I believe in,” said Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican.
Joining critics who complain that America would be ceding its place at the forefront of the 21st-century space race, and noting that India announced plans last week for its first manned space expedition by 2016, he added: “The US will still be working on launching people on rockets that do not exist while Russia, China, and India are actually doing it.
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