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Obama to Unveil “Ambitous” Plan for NASA

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 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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aqua March 8, 2010, 4:46 PM

    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?

  • Maxwell March 8, 2010, 7:01 PM

    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.

  • Astrofiend March 8, 2010, 10:03 PM

    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.

  • Astrofiend March 8, 2010, 10:09 PM

    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.

  • Rb85 March 9, 2010, 5:03 AM

    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.

  • Aodhhan March 9, 2010, 5:58 AM

    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.

  • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb March 9, 2010, 7:42 AM

    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!

  • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb March 9, 2010, 7:59 AM

    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.

  • JoeTO March 9, 2010, 10:52 AM

    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?


  • Aqua March 9, 2010, 2:15 PM

    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?

  • Aqua March 9, 2010, 2:30 PM

    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….

  • puett16 March 9, 2010, 4:05 PM

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

  • Lawrence B. Crowell March 10, 2010, 3:48 AM

    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.