proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program
that was supposed to return humans to the moon by 2020. The troubled
and expensive Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to
ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for its big
brother, the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and
supplies needed to take humans back to the moon.
There will be no lunar landers, no moon bases, no Constellation program at all.
In their place, according to
insiders, agency officials, industry executives and congressional
sources familiar with Obama’s long-awaited plans for the space agency,
will look at developing a new “heavy-lift” rocket that one day will
take humans and robots to explore beyond low Earth orbit. But that day
will be years — possibly even a decade or more — away.
In the meantime, the
to concentrate on Earth-science projects — principally, researching and
monitoring climate change — and on a new technology research and
development program that will one day make human exploration of
asteroids and the inner solar system possible.
There will also be funding for private companies to
develop capsules and rockets that can be used as space taxis to take
astronauts on fixed-price contracts to and from the
“We certainly don’t need to go back to the moon,” said one administration official.
Everyone interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity, either because they are not authorized to talk for the
or because they fear for their jobs. All are familiar with the broad
sweep of Obama’s budget proposal, but none would talk about specific
numbers because these are being tightly held by the
But senior administration officials say the spending
freeze for some federal agencies is not going to apply to the space
agency in this budget proposal. Officials said
They also said that the
to at least 2020. One insider said there would be an “attractive sum”
of money — to be spent over several years — for private companies to
make rockets to carry astronauts there.
But Obama’s budget freeze is likely to hamstring
in coming years as the spending clampdown will eventually shackle the
agency and its ambitions. And this year’s funding request to develop
both commercial rockets and a new
That panel, led by former
Last year, lawmakers prohibited
quietly planning on the end of Ares I, which is years behind schedule
and millions of dollars over budget.
In recent days,
engineers and rocket hobbyists proposed variations on old agency
designs that use the shuttle’s main engines and fuel tank to launch a
capsule into space. According to officials and industry executives
familiar with the presentations, some of the contractor designs are
very similar to the one pressed by the hobbyists.
Officially, companies such as
“I would not say Ares is dead yet,” said an executive with one major
Few doubt that a fight is looming. In order to
finance new science and technology programs and find money for
commercial rockets, Obama will be killing off programs that have
created jobs in some powerful constituencies, including the Marshall
Space Flight Center in Shelby’s
The end of the shuttle program this year is already going to slash 7,000 jobs at
One administration official said the budget will send a message that it’s time members of
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