On the heels of news about NASA engineers who feel the Constellation program is using the wrong kind of rockets comes word that efforts to build the spacecraft which will replace the shuttle and return astronauts to the moon is running behind and over-budget. NASA Watch published a leaked internal NASA document showing the Constellation Program has encountered financial and technical problems, and the Associated Press quoted Doug Cooke, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration as saying the first test flights for Orion may be delayed. However, the delay thus far is only of NASA’s internal goal of having the spacecraft ready by 2013. Cooke said they are still on target for NASA’s public commitment of first test flights by 2015, and returning to the moon by 2020. But unless the space agency can receive more funding, further delays may be inevitable.
The 117-page report shows an $80 million cost overrun this year for just one motor and a dozen different technical problems that the space agency put in the top risk zone, meaning the problems are considered severe. The report put the program’s financial performance in that category, as well.
Some experts say it’s too early to be worried, others say NASA’s design is flawed or the space agency is just repeating mistakes made in developing the space shuttle. But almost everyone agrees that NASA isn’t getting enough funding to do what they’ve been asked to do.
Additional funding from Congress is pending, but in an election year, don’t count on it.
News Sources: NASA Watch, Newsweek/AP
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 the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.