Obama to Unveil “Ambitous” Plan for NASA

by Nancy Atkinson on March 8, 2010

President Obama will travel to Florida to unveil an “ambitious plan for NASA that sets the agency on a reinvigorated path of space exploration,” according to a press release from the White House. The President will host a conference on April 15, inviting space officials and leaders to discuss the new budget and plan for NASA and the future of U.S. leadership in human space flight. The location was not yet disclosed, but it likely will be at Kennedy Space Center.

Specifically, the conference will focus on the goals and strategies, the next steps, and the new technologies, new jobs, and new industries it will create, the White House said. Conference topics will include the implications of the new strategy for Florida, the nation, and our ultimate activities in space.

The proposed plan for NASA, which includes cutting the Constellation program to return to the Moon, has drawn extreme reactions — both praise and harsh criticism since first announced on Feb. 1, 2010. Most agreed, however, that the plan was short on details as to destinations and how we might get there.

After the Augustine Commission found that Constellation program was “fundamentally un-executable,” Obama’s new plan cancels the Ares rockets but add $6 billion for NASA over the next five years.

“This funding will help us achieve our boldest aspirations in space,” the White House said in the press release. “The President’s ambitious new strategy pushes the frontiers of innovation to set NASA on a more dynamic, flexible, and sustainable trajectory that can propel us on a new journey of innovation and discovery.”

But former astronaut Leroy Chiao, a member of the Augustine Commission said he was surprised Constellation was cut.

“I didn’t foresee the recent announcement of the cancellation of the NASA Orion crew exploration vehicle (CEV),” Chiao wrote in his blog,“the commercial option was for LEO access, not exploration. I expected that CEV, along with either a heavy lift vehicle, or a man-rated expendable launcher would serve as a complimentary system to commercial LEO efforts. Details of the US plans for the future of NASA human spaceflight remain to be revealed, but I remain cautiously optimistic. Sometimes it takes dramatic change, even temporary chaos, to affect the possibility of a quantum jump in improvement.”

There’s been much discussion about if this new “plan” means the end of human spaceflight as we know it. It might. But do we want to keep going with the status quo, or go in new directions? Hopefully the April 15 conference will provide the details everyone is craving. Change is hard, and certainly, not everyone will be satisfied.

Now, we just need to wait….


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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