July 31, 2009

Panel says deep space should be U.S. goal

NASA should skip future moon and Mars landings and concentrate on manned missions in deep space, a federal advisory panel said.

NASA should adopt a flexible path and avoid the deep gravity wells of the Moon and Mars, which would save time and money in developing landers to get astronauts to the surface and back, the 10-member panel said after meeting in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

The flexible path essentially goes across stepping stones of progressively longer, more challenging missions by which NASA would learn how to operate long missions in deep space, panel member Edward Crawley, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The New York Times in a story published Friday.

Financially, NASA may not have the budget before 2020 for any space scenario beyond low-Earth orbit programs such as those established through the International Space Station, panel member Christopher F. Chyba, a Princeton professor of astrophysics, said.