March 17, 2010

NASA Chief Defends Budget Increase, Privatization Plans

The administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) defended the agency's budget increase, the decision to cancel a return trip to the moon, and the increased focus on privatizing space transportation during comments made at the Satellite 2010 conference on Tuesday.

According to Reuters, NASA chief Charles Bolden stated that helping fund commercial development would lead to "incredible opportunities" for American technology companies, and added that the plan to increase the organization's funding by $6 billion over the next five years would help re-establish the space agency as a "big-picture innovator."

"This budget is good for NASA because it sets the agency on a sustainable path that is tightly linked to our nation's interests," Bolden also told space industry executives during the four-day conference, which is being held at the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

In response to the recent criticism by Utah legislators of NASA and President Barack Obama's decision to shelve the Constellation program, which aimed to return U.S. astronauts to the moon by 2020, Bolden said that the project was "on an unsustainable trajectory. If we continued on our current course, at best we would have ended up flying a handful of astronauts to the moon sometime after 2030."

Bolden, a retired Major General who served 34 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, was appointed NASA Administrator in July 2009. He had also served more than a dozen years with NASA during that time, and was a part of four orbiting space shuttle missions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in May 2006.


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