As if there wasn’t enough to attend to on Earth at the moment, President Barack Obama also has to focus on U.S. plans in space. As members of his administration announced Sunday, these plans will not only significantly diverge from those of the preceding administration but also, in some ways, from the direction that previous presidents have pursued for the last half-century.
Most significantly, perhaps, Obama wants to put the kibosh on NASA’s moon program. This ought to spawn some interesting conspiracy theories. —KA
The New York Times:
President Obama is calling on NASA to cancel the program that was to return humans to the Moon by 2020, and focus instead on radically new space technologies.
Mr. Obama’s 2010 budget proposal for NASA asks for $18 billion over five years for fueling spacecraft in orbit, new types of engines to accelerate spacecraft through space and robotic factories that could churn soil on the Moon — and eventually Mars — into rocket fuel.
Plans for a new mission to leave Earth’s orbit will probably not be spelled out for a few years, and the budget proposal makes it clear that any future exploration program will be an international collaboration, not an American one, more like the International Space Station than Apollo.
“I think this is a dramatic shift in the way we’ve gone about particularly human spaceflight over the past almost 50 years,” said John M. Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University who was one of about a dozen people who were briefed about the NASA proposal Sunday evening.
“It is a somewhat risky proposition,” Dr. Logsdon said, “but we’ve been kind of stuck using the technologies we’ve developed in the ’50s and ’60s.”
Wikimedia Commons / NASA
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon on July 20, 1969.