Obama space panel says moon return plan is a no-go (Update)

Sep 08, 2009 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer
NASA logo

(AP) -- A White House panel of independent space experts says NASA's return-to-the-moon plan just won't fly.

The problem is . The expert panel estimates it would cost about $3 billion a year beyond NASA's current $18 billion annual .

"Under the budget that was proposed, exploration beyond Earth is not viable," panel member Edward Crawley, a professor of aeronautics at MIT, told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The report gives options to President Barack Obama, but said NASA's current plans have to change. Five years ago, then-President George W. Bush proposed returning astronauts to the moon by 2020. To pay for it, he planned on retiring the shuttle next year and shutting down the in 2015.

All those deadlines have to change, the panel said. Space exploration would work better by including other countries and private for-profit firms, the panel concluded.

The panel had previously estimated that the current plan would cost $100 billion in spending to 2020.

Former NASA associate administrator Alan Stern said the report showed the harsh facts that NASA's space plans had "a mismatch between resources and rhetoric." Now, he said, Obama faces a choice of "essentially abandoning human spaceflight" or paying the extra money.

The panel, chaired by retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, includes executives, scientists and ex-astronauts. It posted a summary report Tuesday on both and NASA web sites.

NASA can't get beyond low-Earth orbit without spending more, but space travel with astronauts is important, the panel found. That will cost an extra $3 billion a year and is "unquestionably worth it," Crawley said.

The question is where to go.

The Bush plan was to go to the moon, which would serve as a training ground for flights to Mars. The Augustine panel agreed Mars is the ultimate goal, but said going to the moon first is only one option and not the preferred one. Instead, the panel emphasized what it called a "flexible path" of exploring near-Earth objects such as asteroids, the moons of Mars, and then landing on the moon after other exploration.

"There's a lot of places in the neighborhood," Crawley said. "In fact, going to the moon is more difficult than going to a near-Earth object."

The panel also said the space shuttle should continue flying until early 2011 to finish all its space station work and that it can't realistically retire by Oct. 1, 2010 as the Bush administration planned.

The panel called "unwise" the Bush plan to shut down the space station in 2015 and steer it into the ocean, after 25 years of construction and only five years of fully operational life. The space station's life should be extended, the panel said.

Once the shuttles are grounded, it could be another six to seven years before the United States has its own transportation into space, the panel estimates. That's because it will take a few years to build and test the new Ares rocket. In the meantime, NASA will have to rely on the Russian Soyuz.

The panel also urged NASA to pay private companies to develop spaceships to ferry astronauts to the space station and low-Earth orbit. That may be riskier, but it would free up NASA to explore elsewhere, the panel said. Elon Musk, chief executive officer of SpaceX, said within a few years he could send astronauts to space for about $20 million a person, less than the $50 million Russia is charging. He hopes to launch his private rocket, Falcon 9, later this year or early next.

NASA should encourage other countries to join the U.S. in exploring space beyond Earth orbit, the panel said.

"If after designing cleverly, building alliances with partners and engaging commercial providers, the nation cannot afford to fund the effort to pursue the goals it would like to embrace, it should accept the disappointment of setting lesser goals," the report said.

The panel outlined Obama's options. In two cases, the federal government could choose not to spend extra money on exploration and thus wouldn't go to the moon or anywhere new in the next couple decades. The other plans involve spending more money.

The panel suggested that if NASA continues its current moon plans, to save money it should kill plans to make a smaller Ares I to carry astronauts and go right to the bigger Ares V.

Other variations of going to moon plan could rely on a version of the system that would use the boosters and external tank with a capsule attached.

already has spent $7.7 billion on its current moon plan, including the design and construction of new rockets. The Ares I has a test of its key first stage scheduled for later this week and an overall test launch scheduled for Halloween.

---

On the Net

The report: http://www.ostp.gov/galleries/press(underscore)release(underscore)files/Augustineforweb.pdf

The panel: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/home/index.html

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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User comments : 40

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degojoey
3.9 / 5 (7) Sep 08, 2009
i hate how america keeps loosing its #1 ranking! we are no longer the most competitive economy, health care sucks, employment sucks. now were loosing our #1 position in space exploration. India is planning on going to the moon and we can't afford it! Seriously!?!
Sean_W
4 / 5 (8) Sep 08, 2009
Who needs NASA? Just sit on top of Obama's national debt and let its accelerating expansion blast you to the moon.
rincewind
3.8 / 5 (8) Sep 08, 2009
I don't like it either, but humans don't belong in space anyway. The solar system can be explored adequately enough using machines, and any migration beyond the solar system can take place once we've rid ourselves of these fleshy bags containing archaic, slow & messy chemical processes.
Scryer
3 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2009
I'm pretty sick of NASA anyways.
ontheinternets
4.5 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2009
It seems to me that ever since the cold war started winding down, the US has been rather aimless. It still has some of the market economy and work ethic that it tuned earlier (when more people felt it had a purpose, misguided or not), and is still somewhat robust (the manufacturing base isn't quite dead yet).. but now what is it doing? Does anyone know where it's going, or is everyone just too busy fighting to cover living expenses and then climbing over eachother when they get the opportunity? Seems like a question for a generation.
VOR
3 / 5 (4) Sep 08, 2009
i hate how america keeps loosing its #1 ranking! we are no longer the most competitive economy, health care sucks, employment sucks. now were loosing our #1 position in space exploration. India is planning on going to the moon and we can't afford it! Seriously!?!




why? recent corruption and greed has exploded. concentration of wealth in the rich has exploded. US was a bit more utilitarian before, but recently conservative interests have worked against that and weakened the country as a whole, while making a few people even more absurdly rich. Bad fiscal management by former administration has left little for NASA compared to more important issues, like healthcare. I'm all for NASA and the moon, but it may have to wait until we get things just a little better on track. Its up to each of us. Our lack of emphasis on education is the most depressing of all. People who argue that we cant afford to improve our education are either selfish or just plain short sided. If there's such a thing as a class war, the rich should be very embarrassed by the slaughtering they have handed to the rest of us. You have to get envolved, and vote democrat.
ZeroDelta
5 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2009
I say take money from military spending. Cancelling the plan to buy 300+ F-22 raptors @ $100 million each was a good start.
PPihkala
5 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2009
I think this situation is partly caused by the hidden cost of energy, oil in particular. One can just count what the presence of us army in Irak does cost when it's divided to the oil barrels used in USA. Ongoing war in Irak is a big reason for the deficit climbing every day.
dachpyarvile
1.9 / 5 (15) Sep 08, 2009
Democrats cut military spending. They cut CIA and other intelligence funding to the point that their computers were bested by the computers in elementary school computer labs. 9/11 happened and we lacked adequate intelligence before deciding to go into Iraq. Now the Democrats are at it again, cutting military spending...

The cycle never seems to end because Americans keep voting for them....

But, then, with over 500 metric tons of yellow-cake uranium hidden in Iraq before we found it and got it out last year, we really needed to get in their anyway. Saddam was nuts and needed to go or his program to pay the families of suicide bombers as an incentive to send their children to blow up Americans and Jews would have been the least of our worries....

At any rate, I disagree with Obama's panel. I expected as much as what they did.
TJ_alberta
5 / 5 (7) Sep 08, 2009
dachpyarvile: "yellow-cake uranium hidden in Iraq"
Can you please give us some references that will allow confirmation of this statement? Thanks.
rwinners
5 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2009
Spend the $3 billion. Take it out of the military budget. They wouldn't even miss it.
In fact, shrinking the military could provide funds for a great number of domestic programs. Just bringing all our troops home from diverse places around the world would be a boon to our local economies.
ontheinternets
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2009
If the "yellow-cake uranium hidden in Iraq" comment hadn't been such a total wtf (on at least two levels), I'm guessing it wouldn't have taken so long for someone to rate it.



Regarding the politics.. It's all been very disappointing for more than my lifetime. Welcome to the club.
ontheinternets
5 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2009
I think my last comment didn't come out as I intended. I had just found it humorous that people seemed to be hesitating to rate a comment due to it being difficult to confirm as wrong, rather than just plain wrong.
SmartK8
5 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2009
What we need is a X-Prize for going to the moon and back at a certain (relatively low) price.
Nartoon
3 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2009
How can the US pay for military, NASA, Education, Health care and the big one, Climate change. How much money do they think the average taxpayer has. Here's the new IRS form. How much did you make? Send it!
dachpyarvile
3.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2009
dachpyarvile: "yellow-cake uranium hidden in Iraq"

Can you please give us some references that will allow confirmation of this statement? Thanks.


While a more liberal site, here you go for starters:

http://www.cnn.co...uranium/
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2009
dachpyarvile:"But, then, with over 500 metric tons of yellow-cake uranium hidden in Iraq before we found it and got it out last year, we really needed to get in their anyway. Saddam was nuts and needed to go or his program to pay the families of suicide bombers as an incentive to send their children to blow up Americans and Jews would have been the least of our worries..."

Did you drink the Kool-Aid??


Nope. I did not vote for Obama....
dachpyarvile
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 09, 2009
Here it is from the horse's mouth....

http://www.defens...id=50430

By the way, the more accurate number is 550 metric tons or 606.271 tons (US).

And, thanks for the reactionary downrank... Much appreciated. :)
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2009
From the other horse's mouth:

Jerry Grandey, President & Chief Executive Officer:

Greg, I'm not sure we got it fully. Did you ask whether we had been participating in the spot market in Q2?

* * * * *

George Assie, Senior Vice-President Marketing & Business Development:

Well this is the report of the purchase of the Iraqi material.

* * * * *

Jerry Grandey, President & Chief Executive Officer:

That 1.4 million pounds, Greg, that Cameco in conjunction with the Canadian and U.S. government procured out of Iraq with delivery actually taking place early in July, so that wouldn't quite qualify as second quarter, but it was all negotiated in the second quarter.

http://www.cameco...nscript/
ThomasS
not rated yet Sep 09, 2009
So whats the update?
ontheinternets
1 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2009
Gulp. I totally missed anything in the news about that. I just read the cnn link (I'm at work and don't want to go into the rest). It is a bit odd that there was no mention there of what it was doing in Iraq in the first place.. nor was there anything in the article explaining why this wasn't a serious threat (It was not, since the process of preparing it isn't easy.. but it is certainly one of the things they were looking for).
ZeroDelta
2 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2009
"Now the Democrats are at it again, cutting military spending..."

Relic from a by-gone era
LariAnn
3.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2009
It might be time to privatize space exploration, as it is overdue to privatize U. S. mail delivery. X-prizes and such are a good idea; take a look at Virgin Galactic. They are just about to get people into space as a commercial venture, and at a small fraction of the amount that's been poured into NASA. Wasteful expenditures are legendary in any government run program, but private enterprise cannot afford such waste if they want to stay in business. That may be the biggest reason why space exploration should go private. We need folks who are as dedicated to getting into space as the Wright Brothers were in getting their ship off the ground. Private inventors spend all they have to realize their dreams; government spends all WE have to fumble the ball!

"Steer the ISS into the ocean" after only 5 yrs svc? Who came up with THAT truly bonehead idea? Look how long the rovers on Mars have lasted in svc! Why not put it up for sale instead?
Quyhn
not rated yet Sep 09, 2009
Yeah, so glad we've blown $650 billion on these wars so far... No problem there apparently... but omg, a fraction of that to explore our surrounding solar system is just out of the question! Not feasible? Where were these guys when we were deciding whether or not to bomb Iraq?
DAS
5 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2009
Regarding the "yellow-cake" reference, I believe it is important to provide some additional information. This cache of yellowcake came from a nuclear facility that had been known about for quite awhile preceding the second Iraq war. It certainly was not hidden. In fact, UN inspectors had documented and safely stored the cache in 1991. The is no evidence of additional yellowcake in Iraq after 1991.

It is disconcerting to think of this type of hazardous material located in Iraq, a country still very much in disarray. However, it's existence is no vindication for the second Iraq war.

http://www.msnbc....5546334/
http://www.nytime...raq.html
RayCherry
not rated yet Sep 09, 2009
Why not sell Nasa to the Governments and Large Enterprises of the world?

Seems to me that America's options are:

Fund it properly, and get to Mars first;

Kill it, and all the technology spin offs that America has thrived on since WWII, (IBM, Intel, Microsoft, for examples);

Share it, and let old enemies become close friends in the only project that ever truly united the people of this world in a single ambition ... to get off this rock and explore Our Solar System

Instead of continuing to pick the bones of this planet dry, lets spread to others while we have the opportunity ... and that means overcoming financial, political and social concerns with a 'dream' that can be shared and committed to by all contributors.

Reinstate and reinvigorate the United Nations; combine the ideas, skills, technology and resources under a single flag; invite all countries to participate regardless of their apparent capacities; and make sure that The Whole World benefits from the rewards.
retread
not rated yet Sep 09, 2009
Imagine what Obama could have done had he inherited the Clinton-era economy rather than the Bush ultracorruption era?

Republicans have the most bizarre memory...

Anyway, IMHO I feel Mars should be priority #1. Not for the science, but to bring Americans back together and encourage a new generation to pursue science.

How to pay? Lotteries and private enterprise. (gambling was >$68B in 2002).

Lotteries are a great way to raise funds.
Quyhn
not rated yet Sep 09, 2009
Imagine what Obama could have done had he inherited the Clinton-era economy rather than the Bush ultracorruption era?

Republicans have the most bizarre memory...


Couldn't agree more!
defunctdiety
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2009
The space program is the least of what could benefit from privatization. And yet people praise the daily swelling of our government. What we need is simple denationalization of ownership and transparency in every public domain of the economy.

You'd think the overt corruption of the W-era would have put a bad taste in the Peoples mouth for the governments actual intentions. But no.

787 billion in a Stimulus that produces no product and very little industry? Awesome, we love it.

600 billion TARP taken from us to give to the banks to be loaned back to us with interest? Awesome, give em more.

Federal health care system? Awesome, this govt program will be different.

The government doesn't want you to feel safe, they don't want you energy independent, they certainly don't want you out of debt, they don't even want you to be healthy or educated. They want you to believe you need them to achieve any of these things. And of course to finance it, after financing them and their lobbies.
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2009
Imagine what Obama could have done had he inherited the Clinton-era economy rather than the Bush ultracorruption era?

Republicans have the most bizarre memory...

...


Actually, the Clinton Era benefited from the income stream that began coming in during the Reagan and Bush I years. If Clinton had been allowed to have been in office for another term the economy would have become unsustainable and crumbled earlier.

The Clinton Era as well as a previous Carter are responsible for some interesting legislation that led up to the failures of the economy this time around.

It is Democrats who seem to have no memory of how their legislation erodes at the economy and tends to hold recessions longer in the long run.
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2009
Yeah, so glad we've blown $650 billion on these wars so far... No problem there apparently... but omg, a fraction of that to explore our surrounding solar system is just out of the question! Not feasible? Where were these guys when we were deciding whether or not to bomb Iraq?


A more stable Middle East is in our best interests. It also is in our best interests not to have nations around or at least not the leaders of nations who support and fund terrorist activity.

Saddam was giving out money and writing checks for families of suicide bombers as well as his other various troublemaking. He had to go.

Unfortunately, a few stupid soldiers had to do some stupid things and end up prolonging things in both countries where we are fighting.

You don't rape 14 year-old girls and then burn houses down to hide the evidence. You don't do what Saddam was doing and torture people. And, you certainly don't use a Qur'an for target practice.

This all could have been shorter....
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Sep 10, 2009
Clinton had Osama bin Laden in custody for the USS Cole bombing and afterward let him and his buddies go. We had a chance to prevent everything long before.

But, it was the stupid things that a few, stupid soldiers did on the ground that escalated anti-American sentiment. When the Americans went into Iraq soldiers were greeted with gifts and kisses. We had done the right thing and even the people of Iraq stated so.

Then, a few American soldiers did some really dumb things and destroyed our image of beneficence, escalating and prolonging the whole affair far longer than needed.
docknowledge
1 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2009
It might be time to privatize space exploration...

"Steer the ISS into the ocean" after only 5 yrs svc? Who came up with THAT truly bonehead idea? Look how long the rovers on Mars have lasted in svc!

*Commercial* space can be privatized. Techs that many do, such as orbiting satellites can be privatized. But exploring Mars? As someone who has worked at NASA and in industry ... Public companies are utterly unsuited to exploration. They are peopled almost entirely those looking for profit and a comfortable lifestyle. Those motivations are at NASA, but not a common topic of conversation. Put exploration in the hands of comfortable, unscientific, incurious consumers ... nothing would ever get done.

Odd you defend the ISS in the same breath.

Many in NASA believe it was always a white elephant. Those rovers you mention were built by that faction, who believe that manned space flight is uneconomical for most missions. The value of the ISS is international cooperation, not science.
dachpyarvile
3 / 5 (2) Sep 12, 2009
Oh no. I freely admit that the primary cause of the Great Depression was a Republican. That president was a total idiot who thought that it was a good thing to introduce taxes, tariffs, and other stupidities during an economic downturn.

But, the Great Depression was prolonged beyond what it would have been as a result of legislation signed by a Democrat in the president's office.

It is important to study the entire legislative picture as well as look for economic signs across presidential administrations. One can also look at effective dates of various legislation.

For example, one can look at periods when drafts were legislated and can see a pattern of Democrats in office when they are first legislated.
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2009
...
YOu are such a partisan hack it's not even funny. Talk about spouting talking points. Almost everything you said can be heard on sean hannity and Rush limbaugh. Do yourself a favor and read a book. I don't even have the energy to educate you.


I do not listen to either of these individuals, so now what, Mar Balls? I've come to hate talk radio of any kind over the recent years.

I read constantly, which is why I have come to the stance that I have on the matter. One thing that people tend not to do is examine the whole matter.

For instance, people love to talk of the economic crash to the last couple years. But, do they talk of the initial cause? Do they talk about the fact that Congress pulls the strings? Do they talk about the warnings Bush gave congress years previous and the fact that Congress did nothing until it was too late? Do they talk about the fact that even at the latter half of Bush's term that the jobless rate was the lowest in 25 years?
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2009
One of the initial causes, if not THE initial cause, of the crash was in the legislation signed into law under the Carter and Clinton administrations, and vigoursly enforced by Janet Reno with the assistance of ACORN (Obama's baby).

But, does anybody really want to talk about the 6.5 plus millions of jobs in the US lost during the last year? Or the campaign promises about no pork in the legislation and so-called "stimulus" packages that do not actually stem the net loss of jobs??? :)
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2009
Or, does no one wish to talk about voter fraud and the fact that Democrats are the ones who repeatedly reject use of legitimate identification to help prevent voter fraud? I think everyone should be required to show proof of residency and voter status in order to be allowed to vote. Democrats in office are opposed to such requirements and their voting records tend to prove such opposition to identification requirements.
MorituriMax
1 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2009
So we can give billions to groups like acorn, but NASA, which actually does something to improve our lives, gets shafted.

Typical.
dachpyarvile
not rated yet Sep 14, 2009
Screw ACORN! I am glad that the Census Bureau is dumping them, though. That needed to be done a long, long time ago.

I wholeheartedly agree that NASA should receive more funding. Heck, since Obama was funding Pork anyway, he should have slipped some stimulus to NASA. At least that would have seen real results in the future!
dachpyarvile
not rated yet Sep 17, 2009
I guess one could refer to this Obama panel that quashed this moon return plan as a sort of "Death Panel" for this particular phase of NASA's planned missions. :)

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