NASA to get more money, but must scratch moon plan

(AP) -- President Barack Obama is essentially grounding efforts to return astronauts to the moon and instead is sending NASA in new directions with roughly $6 billion more, according to officials familiar with the plans.

A White House official confirmed Thursday that when next week's budget is proposed, NASA will get an additional $5.9 billion over five years, as first reported in Florida newspapers. Some of that money would extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020. It also would be used to entice companies to build private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station after the space shuttle retires, said the official who was not authorized to speak by name.

The money in the president's budget is not enough to follow through with NASA's Constellation moon landing plan initiated by President George W. Bush. An aide to an elected official who was told of Obama's plans, but who asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the discussions, said Obama is effectively ending the return-to-the-moon effort, something that has already cost $9.1 billion.

It all comes down to money. The six-year-old Bush plan, which a former NASA chief called "Apollo on steroids," sputtered when promised budget increases didn't materialize. And now money is a big consideration in NASA's latest shift in focus.

A new direction for NASA has been on hold for several months while an independent commission studied options and the White House weighed them. Obama's choice will be made clear Monday, when he releases his 2011 budget proposal.

"It certainly appears that the Bush moon mission not going to be included" in future funding, said a senior NASA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the plans.

Space policy scholar John Logsdon, who was on an Obama space campaign advisory committee and has served on NASA advisory panels, said Obama is adopting the preferred option of a White House-appointed outside panel of experts last year. That concept includes reliance on a commercial spaceship, a space station that functions for five more years than planned, and a "flexible path" for human space exploration. That might mean trips to a nearby asteroid, a Martian moon or a brief visit to the moon, instead of the Bush plan for a moon base by the end of the decade.

"What kills the moon mission is the decision to extend the space station to 2020," Logsdon said. That means the Bush goal of "moon by 2020 is dead. We can't afford using the station for five more years and going to the moon."

While the Constellation program "is dead, exploration is not dead and that's really important," Logsdon said.

Already proponents of the moon mission and thousands of workers in space centers in Florida, Alabama and Texas are upset. Congressional officials in those states have denounced such ideas and some of them sit on key committees where they could fight Obama's plans. For example, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., chairs the space subcommittee in the Senate. And the chairwoman of the House space subcommittee, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., is married to a space shuttle astronaut.

The budget numbers were first reported this week by the Orlando Sentinel and Florida Today.

In a statement, Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-Fla., said, "The president's proposal would leave NASA with essentially no program and no timeline for exploration beyond Earth's orbit."

Ken Matthews, a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Huntsville, Ala., said his members worry about "jobs that won't be there."

If Obama does cancel the Constellation program, it "leaves NASA and the nation with no program, no plan and no commitment to any human spaceflight program beyond that of today," said former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin in a statement.

He said this would be recommending "that the nation abandon its leadership on the space frontier," Griffin said.

Kosmas and others raised questions about the safety of switching to a privately run space travel system that NASA would pay to carry astronauts. Companies pursuing such business include Space Exploration Technology Corp. which is already building a new rocket, called Falcon, and capsule, called Dragon. The company is run by PayPal founder Elon Musk.

And a recent report by NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel warned NASA not pursue unproven technology and abandon the Ares I rocket - the first rocket in the Bush moon program and one based on the Apollo design.

The report called such a path "unwise and probably not cost-effective."

But the Obama administration official said the Bush program was so underfunded that it wouldn't get astronauts to the moon until 2028 or 2030.

The Bush moon plan was announced after the 2003 Columbia accident that killed seven astronauts. After that disaster in which the shuttle broke apart as it returned to Earth, a special investigative panel said NASA needed a new goal. In January 2004, Bush proposed the return to the moon. It would have involved the Ares I rocket, carrying astronauts in a capsule called Orion. Another Ares spacecraft would carry heavier cargo.

So far NASA has spent $3.5 billion on Ares I and $3.7 billion on Orion and nearly $2 billion on other moon mission work. In the mid-1990s, NASA went through a similar stutter-step that meant abandoning plans that cost billions. That involved President Ronald Reagan's Freedom space station, which ran into trouble after costing $11 billion without building any hardware. President Bill Clinton had the space station redesigned and restarted.

Explore further

Funding threatens US return to moon by 2020

©2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Citation: NASA to get more money, but must scratch moon plan (2010, January 28) retrieved 20 September 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jan 28, 2010
To boldly not go where no man has gone before...

Jan 28, 2010
Chalk it up to 9.1 billion dollars of government waste. They can buy $500.00 USD hammers when a $24.00 USD hardware store model will do the same job but scrap something that could in the long haul open up a whole new frontier of knowledge and science, create jobs,and save cost on later interplanetary missions?!

As if we did not already know, something is very wrong with government, especially the current one.

Jan 28, 2010
I.S.S. extension versus moon mission is not a controversy that I care much about. Both would be exciting and have positive spin-offs but both would be better pursued via private companies.

What annoys me is this leak from some politician's coffee boy. I am all for protecting whistle-blowers and tracking Obama's embarrassments is a full time hobby of mine but this neither blows a whistle nor even embarrasses anyone very much. The reporter says his source is not authorized to speak to the press on behalf of anyone and wants to remain anonymous "because of the sensitivity of the discussions". No. He wants to remain anonymous because he is betraying his employer for no good reason and interfering with what he knows are sensitive talks.

It was once thought unethical, under *normal circumstances*, to speak to the press for your employer or someone they are dealing with when you are not authorized. But then, since ethics are out of style, I think I will go practice cannibalism or something.

Jan 29, 2010
It's called leapfrogging. In 15 yrs the tech will make it easier and a lot cheaper. Let others burn capital on obsolete technologies.

Something I have noticed with the space program is that when current technologies are not being used and contracts dry up there is less of a drive to speedily produce new technologies for manned space flight when man isn't planning to go into space as originally. It also helps immensely when there is a space race on.

No, this will set us back somewhat more than people think. I only wish it were not so.

Jan 29, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jan 29, 2010
I'm adding my post from a recent article in hopes of gaining some traction on the subject:

If NASA is interested in more funding for various projects, a robotic probe should be sent to see about the prospect of processing a few grams of helium-3 on the Moon. Having access to a reliable source of helium-3 may not only solve our energy challenges here at home, but also make our country exceptionally rich in the process.

Why not spend a few hundred million dollars on a probe to determine the feasibility? Make it a simple, scaled down test. If the test establishes that the concept is viable, then send a larger probe to bring back a given quantity of helium-3 to prove the concept.

With the current economy and budgetary constraints, NASA doesn’t have much to loose at this point.

Mathew Sullivan
Boynton Beach, Fl

Jan 29, 2010
Commercialize orbit with privat firms (there are a lot of firms) is much important then go to the Moon.

Jan 29, 2010
I honestly don't believe we ever went to the moon so never expected to go again anyway.

Case in point- Apollo's much more technical feat was done 1st try ,where as 20 years later NASA failed to send the lesser HUBBLE in orbit!!

Jan 29, 2010
The space station isn't being used because everyone thought it would be ending soon. Now maybe experiments that take years to complete can use the station. Besides, who wants to pay for more fuel going to the moon for an experiment that can be done in orbit?

Just like when your personal budget gets tight, use what you have to its fullest before going out to buy a new expensive one.

The Obama administration: No we can't.

Jan 29, 2010
NASA and the U.S. gov't need only a goal oriented mindset, which should not include just ways to spend money.

Only reason for going to the moon is to mine Helium 3. But it's a very good reason. Oh, and to investigate that thing on the other side with better equipment than they had in the seventies.

Only reason right now for going to Mars is to exploit the presence of water to support prolonged habitation in some self-sustaining habitat and to eventually explore all the sites which have evidence of possibly non-indigenous lively activity. This will prove difficult, as there is as much land area to cover on Mars as there is on Earth.

Further research should be continued on improving ion engines and better propulsion systems for landing and leaving Mars.

Mars will become the doorstep to the rest of the solar system.

Jan 29, 2010
PS3. I hardly think a lens mishap with the hubble can be taken so far out of context to say, "NASA failed to send the HUBBLE into orbit". If i'm missing something here let me know. But when any non moon-believers enter their opinions they immediately become suspect in my eyes.

Jan 29, 2010
PS3. I hardly think a lens mishap with the hubble can be taken so far out of context to say, "NASA failed to send the HUBBLE into orbit". If i'm missing something here let me know. But when any non moon-believers enter their opinions they immediately become suspect in my eyes.

That is what I meant''lens'' and is still a massive failure compared with the time and tech imo.The best evidence I ever came across is them saying well here is moonrock, but that could have came from a robot for all I know.

Jan 29, 2010
Chalk one up for another big disappointment with our government. The budget that NASA has is a fraction compared to the waste and other programs the government has, and yet the work that NASA does, has far reaching benefits. Personally I think the whole Ares I capsule project is a joke. Let's re-do what we did 40 years ago. I am strongly in favor of a heavy lift vehicle, which we should of had all along. We need to inspire the public. I would have been more in favor of a craft that takes off like a plane, reaches orbit, and then returns like a plane. There were several project starts, but all were killed wasting more money.

Jan 29, 2010
The moon landing is a joke.

They didn't even pay for the rockets. The amount was just enough to pay for the cost of building a hollywood set instead.

Wag the dog has the true story if you read between the lines. There is a good reason the director is called Stanley...

The film footage of the astronauts is using the same technique as applied by Kubrik in 2001 space oddessey. He was the only director at the time who knew you to use that technology and was willing to run the production as his greatest work which he could never discuss in public. Obviously he did talk about it though and there is good reason why his last film was called "Eyes wide shut". That he died before finishing and that a huge amount of his vision for the film was edited before the official release is also related.

Jan 29, 2010
Now onto this supposed laser that bounces of a 2 meter mirror that is sitting on the moon. Please! Due to light scatter/defraction over such a long distance and the noise in our atmosphere it's is fundamentally impossible for the beam to hit a target that small and that far away. It is just bouncing off the surface of the moon instead. Just think of a flashlight beam for an example of the spread that a laser beam will encounter at such a large distance.

Jan 29, 2010
And the moon rocks. If the 800kg's of dirt and sand they supposedly brought back from the moon were really moon rocks why were they stored in an unguarded room in a NASA academy science department for the past 40 years?

Jan 29, 2010
Space is robot territory. If it takes another ten years to develop the AI and machinery needed to send industrial robots to the moon, then let's develop those technologies here. It makes no sense to plan on sending today's relatively primitive equipment to the moon. The next thing that lands there should be able to survive, navigate and build factories without constant supervision.

Jan 30, 2010
Two thoughts:
I think that we would not go wrong funding "it all".
1.) I'll bet money spent by NASA, at least that spent when it was spent on exploration and pushing the boundaries, has done more for the "poor" than five times that amount in social programs.
2.) While visiting NASA's web site I at first wondered why Obama never used the word honor about
the sacrifices of our lost astronauts. Then it occured to me that one might "celebrate" a sacrifice
while moving to make it meaningless, but one cannot
honor sacrifices while doing so.

Jan 30, 2010
Frankly, I think money better be thrown at even better telescopes than at the moon. Hubble, Keppler, Wise etc, thats where the juicy scientific fruit is hanging. Recent telescopes have given us unprecedented glimpses of the universe in its infancy and exoplanets, infrared telescopes peering through clouds. Finding that 2nd earth is more exciting stuff than a return to the moon and planting a flag, we should return when cheaper human space tranportation has finally been developed, after wich the moons gains economical significance for colonisation

Jan 30, 2010
Using gravitational lensing of the sun and putting a telescope at this focal point at 150 AU, so that you could sample atmospheric spectra of exoplanets or perhaps even see continents and peek a couple of hundred million years further back in the dark ages of the universe, thats the kind of bold mission that appeals to me.

Jan 30, 2010
goldengod: you are simply wrong...enough of your nonsense.
Frankly, I am (somewhat) happy that NASA is stepping back. They spend way too much for too little vision. Now it is time for the private entrepeneurs to step up. The public cannot complain how private money is spent and the private projects will be able to claim the profits for themselves, and not "for all mankind". Lead, follow or just get out of the way!

Jan 30, 2010
goldenrod is a complete idiot, i retrofitted the high resolution encoders on the mcdonald observatory where the telescope thats used in reverse points the laser to the moon. those encoders have a resolution of about 0.5 m square on the surface of the moon.

Jan 30, 2010
The mirror could have been sent by itself also. I saw the episode on mythbusters and the lady could only show a tiny blip on the machine.

Jan 31, 2010
goldengod should take a look at Mythbusters episode 104.

The list of busted and confirmed statements about the NASA moon landing is here:


Jan 31, 2010
To boldly not go where no man has gone before...

Should that not be: "To boldly not go where man has been before"?

Jan 31, 2010
The complaints about NASA have been going on for many years, atleast since Dr. Griffin took over the

I believe his leadership was the result.

Feb 01, 2010
Anyone who doesn't think we landed on the moon, and that it was a Hollywood set conspiracy, please delete your physorg accounts now.

Feb 01, 2010
Kind of amazing they list three different people who weren't supposed to talk about this as their sources. Lots of quality people working there, that don't know what "sensitive" or "not authorized" means and will talk about anything at all if you buy them a cup of coffee.

Feb 01, 2010
It is just bouncing off the surface of the moon instead. Just think of a flashlight beam for an example of the spread that a laser beam will encounter at such a large distance.

This is ridiculous. If it was just reflection off the surface then any random point you looked at would give you a reflected signal. I don't suppose you've tried this? As was mentioned above, Mythbusters already looked into this.
Laser beams and flashlight beams aren't even remotely similar. Go look up a Gaussian beam - laser light keeps its coherence over very long distances.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more