February 3, 2010

The Fight To Save Cancelled Moon Mission

On the 7th anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle disaster, it was announced that plans to send another American to the moon had been called off, which may lead to a contentious debate in Congress about the future of U.S. manned space exploration.

Now, politicians from Florida, Texas and Alabama, are vowing to fight to keep the moon program going. All three of the states have lost thousands of jobs in the space industry due to the planned retirement of the old shuttle fleet.

"They are replacing lost shuttle jobs too slowly, risking U.S. leadership in space to China and Russia, and relying too heavily on unproven companies," Bill Nelson, a Democratic Senator for Florida and former astronaut who flew one mission in 1986, told the Guardian.

The plan is "disastrous," according to Michael Griffin, who stepped down as NASA chief when Obama took office. He compared it to the way Richard Nixon cancelled the Apollo program in the 1970s.

"It means that essentially the US has decided that they're not going to be a significant player in human space flight for the foreseeable future," he told The Washington Post.

So far, NASA has spent over $9 billion on the moon program, Constellation. This figure includes testing the Ares I rocket that would have accomplished things such as replacing the shuttle as transport from Earth to the international space station (ISS).

Obama's budget report said the program was "based largely on existing technologies, over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation."

"The truth is that we were not on a path to get back to the moon's surface," said Charles Bolden, the new NASA administrator.

"There will be challenges as a result of cancelling Constellation, [but] the funding for NASA is increasing, so we expect to support as many if not more jobs."

The budget allows NASA $19 billion for 2011, as well as $100 billion to be used over the next five years. The proposal also extends the international space station until 2020.


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