At least by NASA, if the Orlando Sentinel has it right:
When the White House releases his budget 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 bigger 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 White House insiders, agency officials, industry executives and congressional sources familiar with Obama’s long-awaited plans for the space agency, NASA 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 White House will direct NASA 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 International Space Station — a major change in the way the agency has done business for the past 50 years.
As the article notes, there will be a battle royale with people on the Hill like Shelby, but it’s hard for me to see how the program will survive if the White House sticks to its guns. On the other hand, this is not a White House known for sticking to its guns.
Anyway, if that’s the new plan, it actually has a lot better prospects for getting us back to the moon than Constellation ever did, and much more affordably.
[Update a while later]
Clark Lindsey makes a good point on the politics:
Regarding the resistance in Congress to cancellation of Ares I, I’d bet the administration would love that fight. With deficits a huge concern in the general public, the killing of a giant boondoggle government rocket project is exactly the sort of symbolic act that the administration would be happy to see receive a lot of attention. The fact that most of that resistance comes from a handful of Republicans in Alabama and Texas would only highlight the irony of a situation where the President will be fighting conservatives to kill a government program and use private sector services instead.
When it comes to pork, there don’t seem to be any “conservatives.”
[Update a couple minutes later]
Keith Cowing feels cheated (again):
NASA has just spent more than half a decade telling Americans that we are all going back to the Moon – and why. In the process, billions of dollars have been spent. Children have grown up being told this again and again – just like my generation heard in the 1960s. Now this is being taken away from them. I can only imagine how my generation would have reacted. It is one thing to alter a plan, change rockets, etc. But it is quite another to abandon the plan altogether.
The ISS has great potential – much of it yet to be realized. But much of that untapped potential was preparing humans to go out into the solar system. Now those destinations have evaporated and have been replaced with the elusive and ill-defined “Flexible Path”.
How is NASA going to explain this about face? Answer – they won’t – because they can’t. They are incapable of admitting mistakes or even stating the obvious. What I really want to see is how NASA attempts to explain this bait and switch to all of the students it has sought to inspire since the VSE was announced. A “Summer of Innovation” centered around a stale and contracting space program seems somewhat contradictory to me.
How will NASA – and the White House – explain the use of vast sums of taxpayer money to bail out the decisions of incompetent financial institutions on Wall Street and yet not be able to find a paltry fraction of that amount to bail out the future of space exploration that future Americans will benefit from – and participate in.
He apparently had far too much faith that anything was going to come of this. I was somewhat hopeful right after the announcement, but once ESAS came out, I knew that the program was doomed to failure. We’ve wasted billions and years more, but at least we’re going to stop the bleeding now. I’m much more encouraged about our prospects to get to the moon now than I have been in five years.
[Early afternoon update]
Bill Posey has fired off a foolish response:
“This Administration has thrown hundreds of billions of dollars into a failed stimulus bill, but when it comes to keeping America first in space his ‘plan’ is to cancel the development of America’s next human space vehicle, outsource our good-paying Shuttle jobs to the Russians, place all of our hopes on a yet unproven commercial adventure, rush/force the transition to yet unproven commercial alternatives, and shifts money from human space flight to global warming research.
“Until we have a clearer plan for the future, the only realistic and reasonable way to preserve America’s leadership in space is too [sic] provide for a temporary extension of the Shuttle. To terminate the Shuttle later this year with no plan, but rather a vain hope, is ill advised.
He has never proposed a realistic plan as to how to extend Shuttle. They’re running out of pieces to fly it, and the lines were shut down long ago. And I get very tired of arguments for “jobs,” good paying or not, with no apparent concern about cost or value to the taxpayer (or space enthusiast, for that matter). I grow even more tired of hearing about how an Atlas that has an almost perfect flight record is “unproven,” while Powerpoint rockets are some kind of sure thing, merely because they are being designed by NASA.
No, this isn’t exactly what I’d be doing if I were president, but it’s a hell of a lot better policy than anything we’ve had since Mike Griffin took over. I don’t even object to spending more money on climate monitoring, particularly given what a mess the science currently is — I just wish that Jim Hansen wouldn’t have any control, or even influence, over it.