It's Official: Constellation Cancelled, No NASA Return to Moon; Shift Towards Private Space February 1, 2010Posted by Nick Azer in : Constellation, NASA, Norm Augustine, Obama, SpaceX, U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, Vision for Space Exploration , trackback
With the release of its 2011 budget proposal, the Obama administration has concurrently announced, in no uncertain terms, that the current NASA Constellation program is cancelled.
“The President’s Budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration…” -Official White House website, 2011 Budget fact Sheet
The fact sheet goes on to explain the new direction focusing on private space, including some significant funds:
- $1.2 billion for transformative research in exploration technology that will involve NASA, private industry, and academia, sparking spin-off technologies and potentially entire new industries
- $500 million to contract with industry to provide astronaut transportation to the ISS, reducing the sole reliance on foreign crew transports and catalyzing new businesses and significant new jobs.
“Entire new industries”, “catalyzing new businesses” and jobs…As hinted at in his campaign space plan (and by his initial Commerce Secretary appointment of NM Gov. Bill Richardson), Obama clearly believes in the economic potential of an industry-focused NASA. Note that the ISS contract mentioned there is already awarded—SpaceX just needs to prove its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule are human-ready for the option to vest, and both Orbital and SpaceX are already the new ISS cargo suppliers.
What does this mean for moon colonization? It means that NASA itself won’t be landing anyone on the moon.
There is a lot of ‘doom and gloom’ out there about how there won’t be humans on the Moon anytime soon, which is a false assertion—the Chinese program is full-steam-ahead, and if private space can be trusted with the ISS contracts at this early stage, then they’re on a course to be putting men on the Moon before long; perhaps even before NASA would have landed men anyways.
Americans will be on the Moon again soon; they’ll just have to hitch a ride with a company or an international effort to get there. And the U.S. will remain a major lunar player, with many private companies and Google Lunar X PRIZE efforts being American.
The fact sheet doesn’t say anything about new human exploration options, such as the ‘Flexible Path‘ suggested by the Augustine panel, so word remains to be seen regarding that, and whether NASA will shift to a manned asteroid mission or mission to Mars’ moons.