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Obama to Unveil “Ambitous” Plan for NASA

8 Mar , 2010 by

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….

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By  -        
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.



33 Responses

  1. Aqua says:

    CrazyEddieB… “wow. 4 comments, and none related to space.” ROTFL! They DO have that trademark snear, now don’t they~

    Potty level humor? I wonder what President B.O. thinks about GOES P?

    THAT oughta keep em busy for a while…

  2. Aqua says:

    P. Obama has always had an ear for the military and for other techies. Yah gotta figure that the crew he hangs with have got the figures! AND that they might naught be laying all the cards on the table.. just yet…

    His April 15th appearance SHOULD be some time after Space-X orbits they’re FIRE BREATHING Dragon. So we’ll have that, the ATV and the HTV and Progress to get to the ISS… THEN call Buzz and see what he thinks!

  3. Homme du Sud says:

    The grand delusion continues. Obama continues to search for monies to fund his social agenda.
    He can only do all of this by increasing taxes and start bleeding dry his allies and countries alike. (He even going to charge $US 10 for everyone that is non-American entering the US.)
    He also hopes that the war in Iraq ends, freeing funding to other endeavours that need funding.
    The US creates the financial crisis, now it is going to punish the rest of the world in spite of it.
    Who wants international cooperation in space, when the US is behaving like an irresponsible child whose plans are scattered to the four winds. I, for one, am starting to think I couldn’t give a toss about the American space program, because America does give a toss of the contributions made outside its borders.
    The ol’ line by Neil Armstrong “…one giant leap for mankind” now rings even more hollow – rhetoric for an American dream where everyone else doesn’t matter anymore. Plainly filth.

  4. Dark Gnat says:

    The US isn’t the sole cause of the financial meltdown.

    OPEC played a major role. The housing markets began to cumble because people were paying $4-$5/gal gas, and therefore could no longer afford their other bills, let alone consumer spending. The media simply pretends that high gas prices never happened or that it was a short term spike that had nothing to to with the recession. After looking at some of the major shareholders of certain media conglomerates, it’s no surprise.

    I do blame the federal government for not listening to it’s people and investing more in public transportation and not helping people to produce their own energy.

    I do agree that Obama is a short sighted idiot. Mars missions, VASIMIR, etc, are great, but we still have to get the stuff into space.

    That requires a HEAVY LIFTER.

  5. Homme du Sud says:

    “The US isn’t the sole cause of the financial meltdown.”

    Absolute bull. All the financial markets are linked to the US financial banking system, and the excess of the US cascaded throughout the world. Foreign investors got burnt and now all we hear is “its not my fault.” We we now see is that the “free market economy” now positioning itself to make the rest of the world drag it out of the economic mess it originally created.
    Then we hear the American Republic wants to work through international cooperation with everyone else, who happily also contributes to the goals in space, the find they can’t rely on the existing infrastructure – all because the American government seemingly doesn’t have a clue what it is doing.
    If America cannot work in a reliable program and plan, then how the hell does everyone else/ “Leadership”? Bull. How about screwing around with chaos.

  6. Aodhhan says:

    The US Congress failed to pull back the actions of Fannie and Freddy, along with allowing big insurance and big banking to go unchecked, led to the latest financial fiasco. Partly because of democratic pressure on many banks to lend to individuals (mostly minorities) who didn’t have the means to pay back loans. This is one where the Democratic party screwed up, and attempted to deflect the crisis by blaming George Bush for the war. Although there is no denying the war costs a great deal, it isn’t the straw which broke the camels back.
    Then amplifying the problem, the Obama administration began spending money like MC Hammer; ignoring the future problem it is going to cause. Then further screwing up by putting his attention on health care, which will cost even more money, instead of concentrating on creating jobs. Only to make things worse, by cutting money to programs which can create jobs in lieu of programs which costs billions, and do not create jobs.
    Now, his vision is to cut contractors from doing technical and engineering work, and having federal employees who are ill-trained and unequipped to do these activities. Further cutting jobs.
    In short… he’s dropped the ball… and now needs to create a large spotlight on himself as often as he can in order to use his speaking ability to gain popularity.
    …I think its a little to late.

    I applaud the fact he wants to explore in space. However, dropping a manned space program is rediculous. A large program to create space probes to explore the solar system doesn’t create the jobs or technology a manned program does. Also, sending out probes takes a looooong time. Any benefit will not come for years. Although we may applaud initially when something is launched, the public soon forgets about it.
    Once again… he’s out of touch with the people and technology. If this is the best person for the Presidency, I worry about his replacement in a few years time.

  7. wow. 4 comments, and none related to space.

    In the historical perspective, if Obama gets the Space initiative right, it will be the most important thing he can do. Everything else will wash away in less than a decade.

    VSE was empty promises – if you look at the details, it would not have gotten us into the solar system. I’d like it to stop thrasing and die already…

    I am waiting for said details. I’d like to see the US develop the technologies to go to Mars – we can’t do it on “Tried and True” shuttle derivatives. I’d like to see the launch business get commercialized. NASA’s launch business got very fat and ineffective – witness SpaceX.

    Capitalism is the greatest motivator of them all, and creating an environment where companies compete (for real!) for launch services can only be good for us.

    so there.

  8. Aodhhan says:

    What affects other countries most when the US economy goes south is quite a few things. The biggest being investment… everybody drops off the markets because at first nobody knows who can stay afloat. This affects all markets in the world.. not just those at Wall and Broad streets.

    The other large part is American’s stop spending. We consume the goods of other countries like mad men. When goods aren’t being purchased, companies slow down, profits go bye-bye, people are laid off… and the snow ball gets bigger as it rolls down hill.

    In short… it all affects the value of the dollar… which is the central currency of the world. When it goes down, it doesn’t stand up as well to other currencies, so people lose money investing in it. The talk now, is to make the Euro the central currency used between countries. It has shown to be stable. Although this will likely change if it happens. It really doesn’t matter what is used in the long run.

    What should we do? Well.. looks like Obama will have us speaking Chinese in a few years as fast as he is throwing money around.

  9. Aodhhan says:

    I too would like to see commercial business become more involved, in fact it is commercial business which should be working on space ventures in near Earth space. The problem is money and manned ventures.
    There is a big step in money needed between launching a space craft up 120km in space, and launching a space craft to complete one orbit, and then an even larger money step required to launch and maintain orbit.
    Once there…what do they do? Well… nothing which will further manned flight. we’ve pretty much mastered it.
    So the next step is the Moon….well, no company will be able to come up with the capital for it, even the capital to do the planning and research will cost them too much. Only a government has the resources and capital to do it.
    So Obama’s wish to have commercial space is great.. however, there is nothing to be gained in the short or long run by this happening.

  10. Homme du Sud says:

    “No bucks, no Buck Rogers”

    It has already been pointed out;

    “Space exploration has become a global enterprise. Many nations have aspirations in space, and the combined annual budgets of the space programs of our principal partners are comparable to NASA’s. If the United States is willing to lead a global program of exploration, sharing both the burden and benefit of space exploration in a meaningful way, significant accomplishments could follow. Actively engaging international partners in a manner adapted to today’s multi-polar world could strengthen geopolitical relationships, leverage global financial and technical resources, and enhance the exploration enterprise.”

    Oh and;

    “”Whatever space program is ultimately selected, it must be matched with the resources needed for its execution.”

    Budget is everything, and if that is not related to space. Well, “Houston, we have a problem!”

  11. agmartin says:

    Yet another president to announce ambitious plans for NASA which will go nowhere because like the others he will leave the funding of those plans for his successor.

  12. Well given that so far the budget is talking about MORE funding, and LESS Ares, I think the money will be there.

    And Aqua – yes – It’s not only SpaceX’s Falcon/Dragon, it’s what this will do to LMCO and Boeing, who given the right environment can also be competitive.

  13. Greg says:

    Cutting the manned aspect of the space program is a mistake. It is too early to rely on commercial ventures to get astronauts into space safely. I think that as a practical reality is at least 10 to 20 years off. Once cut, restarting a manned program will be even more expensive. Of course this will become necessary once the Chinese have landed on the moon and set up their base. Or if the Russians can no longer sustain their Soyuz program. But I guess this is a pattern for this administration to not have contigency plans layed out ahead of time, much like their health care bill. Another way of thinking about this is if they tld the U.S. mimlitary that they no longer need spy satellites or gps systems or mayeb if they just could do away with transport planes and use airlines and private companies to ferry military equpment overseas. Such notions are equally proposterous as NASA not needing a heavy lift system in the near-term.

  14. Aqua says:

    Our technology now allows us to control sophisticated robotics remotely. Lets get some rovers up on the moon and take a look around. Lets use robots to set up oxygen and water extraction infrastructure. Lets mine some He3 and play with it…

  15. Aqua says:

    Use an ‘X-prise’-like competition as enticement? Guarantee the first to succeed the right to any profit for a period of time? Am SURE the lawyers could come up with something that would work? Donno if the axiom ‘The greater the risk the more the profit’,would hold true here? But the investment in possible profits might get the ball rolling?

    Would it be worth try it to create a ‘land rush’ on the Moon?

  16. Surak says:

    Just imagine where the US space program would be if not for the TRILLIONS wasted thanks to of Bush’s financial collapse and Bush’s unjustified war on Iraq.

    We could have dozens of NASA’s all working on different problems related to getting us better established in space, each with bigger budgets than the current NASA.

    Oh wait, I forgot, the moment Obama was elected every problem, no matter it’s origin, instantly changed to have been created by him, and was declared to have started on the date of that election, because all republicans are perfect and never wasted a penny on anything.

    Damn teabaggers. The US will never do anything truly grand for the future of our species so long as this short-sighted bi-partisan / 4-year election cycle BS controls your agenda.

  17. ND says:

    An increase of gas prices to $4-$5/gal should not have caused so many people to lose their homes. It would have cost more per fill-up but not cause you to foreclose on one’s house. If it did then they were living beyond their means and the gas price increase was the straw that broke the came’s back. Note: I’m not talking about regular foreclosures that can happen even in the best of economies, due to medical emergencies etc. It was unchecked greed (lenders and those taking out the loans) that set up the bubble and the outcome.

  18. Dark Gnat says:

    Homme du Sud, where are you from? I’m not flaming, just curious.

    I can tell you from personal experience that when fuel prices skyrocketed (no pun intended) I had to cut way back on all of my spending, (still do) and many people I knew had to basically choose between gas and mortage payments. At least gas would get them to work.

    I’m sure others were in the same situation, and money became very tight. Lots of people defaulted on their loans, which resulted in banks, lenders, etc suddenly being in big trouble. Without oil, the economy would collapse. OPEC knows this, and they are not afraid to take advantage of it. We simply do not have affordable alternatives for the masses.

    As for space exploration:

    I don’t mind seeing private companies go into space. In fact I think it would be great, but right now it doesn’t look like any of them are ready. No matter who does it, it’s expensive, dangerous and difficult.

    Obahma could take a chance and do a Kennedy-like Mars-shot goal. That would give him a positive legacy, and it might awaken some interest in space exploration among the public. Still, we are in a different political climate – no cold war – so it’s going to be very hard.

    Whatever the plans are, we still have to have a heavy launch vehicle, which Obama does not offer.

  19. ZomZom says:

    Obama eyes the national treasury primarily as a wealth-redistrubtion opportunity. As such, NASA is a jobs program for the educated class — namely, pointless. Everything in this man’s political history shows an interest in economic leveling and zero interest in space exploration. Ditto Nancy Pelosi.

    I’ll be watching come April 15, but mostly because it’s tax day.

  20. Andrew says:

    What’s with all of the political posturing on here?

    I would like to see Obama propose a mission to create sustainable mining operations in space. That means asteroids. Mars will come afterward. The moon probably will come at the same time. If such an enterprise ever gets off the ground. Literally speaking.

  21. gopher65 says:

    Greg: Canada actually does that, and so do many countries. Canada has no ability to transport (land based) military equipment by sea. Instead it relies exclusively on commercial sea transport.

    (The Canadian military does have internal air transportation for troops and equipment though, but you can’t haul 100 tanks and APCs halfway around the world by air nearly as cheaply as you can by sea.)

  22. Maxwell says:

    I want to keep an open mind and say “a few more weeks, this time for sure!”… but we’ve been waiting since long before Augustine for that.
    What suggests this time its for real?

    I’d wager good money its either some intentionally internationa iss tending plan or a 30+ year to mars program. The kind that’s set to start long after he leaves office and only survives as long as his administration does.

  23. Astrofiend says:

    Aodhhan Says:
    March 8th, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Yeah – the democrats have really been screwing America for the past couple of decades. Apart, that is, from the shining example of American leadership that pretty much the whole world got to experience first hand in the form of being bent over and jammed hard throughout the Bush era.

    “This is one where the Democratic party screwed up, and attempted to deflect the crisis by blaming George Bush for the war. ”

    Indeed – why would you blame Bush for the multiple catastrophic wars that he has instigated, exacerbated, lied to his country and the world about, manufactured intelligence for, got thousands of young Americans killed and thousands more horribly maimed for, and just generally thrown half the world into chaos for? Or for the trillions of dollars that said wars have directly drained out of the American budget? It was all a very clever diversionary tactic employed so the dems could instigate their socialist agenda.

  24. Astrofiend says:

    Now, on topic, this space program is pure political spin. Why even take note of it? We see this sort of BS nearly every day in Australia. A polly makes a promise that such and such will be done or created or funded or reformed or changed or blah blah blah, but it will take three to 6 years to achieve. This puts i safely past the next election cycle, at which time the party can crap all over it if still elected with a wave of a hand and a vague statement that ‘circumstances have changed’, and then divert attention by manufacturing a crisis or attacking the opposition party or some similar tactic. It happens so often here that there is basically an understanding between the public and the politicians – they lie, we know they lie, and as long as they’re not as completely hopeless as the opposition party, we leave them in power.

    Everybody looses, but what are you going to do about it? Your only option is to see the lies in the spin and take the shafting. This plan will be no different, unless the president commits to one hell of a timetable.

  25. Rb85 says:

    Astrofriend has made the most meaningful comment yet. Yes, this is loaded with political spin. Just as Vision 2020 was when Bush launched it in 2004. Everyone should take it with a grain (block) of salt. Filter through the “patriotism”, “vision”,”bold” and all those words that are required by the PR team for announcements such as this , and then look at the plan once it is announced. I’m forseeing a plan that is much more realistic that Vision 2020.

    In 2004 I took one look at that plan and knew it wouldnt fly. But I dont have that in writing 6 years later, so I cant tell anyone “I told you so”. Its looking like this plan is alot more realistic and likely to succeed in part or whole (probably part). But I’ll wait until the final announcement to put that in writing.

  26. Aodhhan says:

    Astrofiend…
    If you go back in time, you will see MOST of Congress was just as eager to go to war as the Bush administration was; in fact they supported it. However today, many have sidestepped taking responsibility for supporting it, and point the finger away from themselves.
    Yes, the intel was wrong in Iraq…although it was heavily misinformed by Saddam himself. He wanted the world to believe he had these weapons. …and of course Hind-sight is 20/20. However, there were other things found, also… Iraqi oil was funding various anti-western, radical Islamic, paramilitary groups; as well as some well established groups. So it wasn’t entirely a mistake.
    The biggest test is to talk to the Iraqi public as a whole… they will be very happy when the west leaves, but they are thankful they showed up and got rid of Saddam.
    BTW, many in Iran are putting up a resistance, because they see the changes in Iraq, and now understand how bad their country has become since the overthrow of the Shah.

    …and by no means is Afghanistan a mistake. There is no doubt in my mind, if the coalition didn’t go there and disable the Taliban, and weaken Al-Qeda… there would have been many attacks in many western countries which would have resulted in many more lives lost.

  27. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    In my view, all of this big announcement will not add up to anything particular in regards human spacecraft. I think Obama is sizing up more the technological and engineering advancement which will add towards to the commercialisation of space. His idea is probably more a stimulus package towards new rocketry, engine design and cost cutting measures.
    Space is no place anymore for the hell of it, it has to have defined cost and viable financial return. Considering how much is spent on the ISS, how much return does it get for the money? In fact very little except as a shiny flashy toy, Compared to the return in communications, solar, geological and weather; it give little financial return.
    As other have stated here the effects of the Global Financial Crisis has left few options but to tough it out for a few years, develop a sustainable series of new goals and necessary innovation, then stride for the goals of exploration.
    As for the meantime, we have the two most important astrophysical missions of the NASA James Webb Telescope (JWT) and the ESA’s internationally collaborated astrometric Gaia; (to be launched in 2011) which both collectively for the next five years will provide the most contributions to astronomy and astrophysics. Gaia will be, in my opinion, the greatest of all, observing stars down to 12th magnitude, and doing astrometry, radial velocity and spectrophotometry – all made to a higher precision. Less precise measures will be made on one billion stars down to 20th magnitude. (all measured in micro-arcsecs) Publication is expect by 2020!
    If you thought Hipparcos satellite (which was also ESA) of 1991 was good, this one will provide the dynamical knowledge of our part of the Milky Way, and the information of the kinematics of the whole galaxy! It should keep astronomers going for decades in many levels of stellar physics.
    Although manned spaceflight – the most costly endeavour of all – maybe curtailed for several years, there is still significant science to be done.
    The key, as exampled here, is collaboration – shared by a gambit of countries and benefiting all. Pity that most of the bloggers and the American people/government here can’t get past the presumed superiority – “glory and empire” – embedded in psyche of the approach. Really. Wake up!

  28. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Just in case some one missed it, the original October 2009 NASA report by the “Human Spaceflight Plans Committee” handed to Obama as “Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worth of a Great Nation.” (Note: It is in pdf, 157 pages long, and an 8.1Mb download.)

    A must read if you want to get a grip on Obama and NASA directions in current policy.

  29. JoeTO says:

    Aodhhan:
    Iraqi public feared One Saddam back then. Now they fear multiple Saddams. The puppet government is useless in protecting the people. I am from Iraq and we Christians are scared to death not knowing what the future of Iraq will look like.

    I think Obama is on the right track, investing in the commercial to get to space will be cheaper for Nasa, hoping these companies don’t cut any corner to save money. There has to be an Objective for Nasa to achieve as well, I mean you go to the Moon to do what? Is there a profit to be made? Is there scientific goal then is investing billions of dollars worth the science return? Can’t the robots the science much cheaper?

    Joe

  30. Aqua says:

    So what would it be worth to you if I told you, I had on the Moon, right now, several million gallons of distilled water frozen into a anti-radiation/micrometeor habitat and inside were several million gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.. and a half gallon of He3?

  31. Aqua says:

    What if I were to tell you that in the Lunar ice sculpture Hotel accommodations included use of the 100 meter Ice Telescope? Now you might be interested in our tour pricing….

  32. puett16 says:

    Rumor has it that the big announcement will include healthcare and jobs for E.T.

  33. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    I have not weighed in on this so far. This all looks to be a way of folding up manned space operations permanently. The decision is disguised under the idea of what amounts to privatization, a buzz word popular since Milton Friedmann became the economic darling under Reagan — after he and his gang at the Chicago School did a fine job with Pinochet’s economic programs in Chile.

    The Human Spaceflight Program document starts out with the interesting statement, “The U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources.” While that is true, there was nothing intrinsic to the design of the Ares system for a return to the moon which brought this about. Yet the program was cancelled on that basis, with various vague ideas of technology innovations which are supposed to get around this problem. This could all be translated into stating that manned spaceflight is inherently very expensive and NASA will not be funded for a program which will run into the hundred billion dollar range, after huge cost overruns. The manned spaceflight program is then being turned over to private hands, who will bury the program. The idea private corporations can profit off of manned space flight is about like privatizing a naval carrier task force. The technology innovations might produce results, but it will not result in manned spaceflight systems that are far cheaper and get astronauts back on the moon at a tenth the cost of the Constellation program.

    LC

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