Obama Will Retire Shuttle in 2010, US Will Go Back to the Moon in 2020

[/caption]In a budget blueprint released by the White House on Thursday, President Barack Obama has confirmed his intent to carry out the planned retirement of the ageing Space Shuttle next year. Additionally, the the blueprint affirms Obama’s stance on a return trip to the Moon. The US will return to the lunar surface by the year 2020, following the time scale set out by George W. Bush’s 2004 Vision for Space Exploration. However, there is no mention that the next manned lunar mission will be carried out by the Constellation Program, a project plagued by criticism about its design and technology.

Although the blueprint may differ from the final budget submitted to Congress in April, it looks like there is some certainty about the future of the shuttle and the direction NASA will be taking over the next decade. And now the space agency has a little bit more money to do something about that troublesome 5-year gap in US manned access to space

So, any hope to extend the life of the Shuttle looks to have been dashed. Although there could still be a chance for a shuttle extension when the final budget is submitted, it seems as if President Obama has made his intent very clear; the 25 year-old space launch system will be mothballed, as planned, in 2010. This may come as a relief to many as extending the operational lifetime of the shuttle could be a safety risk, however, many on Florida’s Space Coast won’t be so happy as they could be looking at losing their jobs sooner than they would have hoped.

Generally, these decisions have been welcomed, including the extra $2.4 billion NASA will receive for the 2010 fiscal year (when compared with 2008):

Combined with $1 billion provided to NASA in the $787 billion stimulus package signed into law Feb. 17, the agency would receive $2 billion more than in the $17.7 billion 2009 NASA budget that was passed by the House – an increase that equals an Obama campaign promise. — Florida Today

It remains uncertain how the gap between shuttle retirement and Constellation launch could be shortened from the minimum of five years, but the extra cash is bound to boost confidence. But where does the blueprint say Constellation is even part of the plan? It doesn’t, sparking some media sources to point out that it remains a possibility that the Ares rocket system could be abandoned in favour of making the existing Atlas V or Delta IV rockets human rated. However, space policy specialists are advising not to read too much into the omission.

The budget doesn’t say a whole lot about any specific system,” said John Logsdon, a space policy analyst at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. “I wouldn’t interpret the absence of the words ‘Constellation’, ‘Ares’, and ‘Orion’ one way or another. That’s really up to the the new management team, when it gets there.”

After all, since the departure of Michael Griffin as NASA Administrator, the space agency has been without a leader. Acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese is currently at the helm, saying that the new budget “is fiscally responsible and reflects the administration’s desire for a robust and innovative agency.” Unfortunately the details about the use of Constellation may remain sketchy until the final budget is submitted.

This may be the case, but President Obama has obviously seen the merit in the original plans to get man back to the Moon by the year 2020, despite criticism from a guy who has actually stood on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin. In an “alternative” proposal for the future of NASA, Aldrin and two co-authors posted a draft of the “Unified Space Vision” on the National Space Society’s website this week (Update: the draft has now been “Removed At Request of the Authors”), urging the administration not to mount an unnecessary lunar mission (been there, done that) and go straight for manned exploration of the asteroids and Mars. The Unified Space Vision, unfortunately, was probably too hard on NASA’s accomplishments, saying that “post-Apollo NASA” has become a “visionless jobs-providing enterprise that achieves little or nothing,” in developing a viable space transportation system. Many of the points raised are valid (and occasionally very tough), but would require a complete change in NASA’s structure to accomplish. I doubt we’ll see any radical changes being enacted any time soon.

So, we now have a pretty good idea as to what’s going to happen to the shuttle next year; it looks like the plan to get the US back to the Moon by 2020 is still on and NASA has been given an extra $2 billion to play with. I hope they spend it wisely, perhaps on private space launch contracts?

Sources: Florida Today, New Scientist

24 Replies to “Obama Will Retire Shuttle in 2010, US Will Go Back to the Moon in 2020”

  1. The Ares V is essential if America is to be capable of placing large payloads into Earth orbit and on the moon. The Ares V would have cut the cost of the ISS dramatically.

    The real problem, IMO, is still getting humans cheaply and safely into orbit and back, of course, on the Earth’s surface. I’d love to see the Obama administration take a second look at the Delta Clipper program which could have reduced labor cost for maintaining and launching the reusable vehicle– dramatically.

  2. Good news. Barring any unforeseen mishap, my bet is that America with go back to the moon in 2024, and that the Chinese will get there earlier in 2022.
    It will be interesting to know where the landing site(s) will be, and the images of other parts of the lunar surface. (For me I hope it is near a significant crater and particularly near Schroter’s Valley and the Cobra’s head.
    The greatest concern is the origin of the finance to continue to fund the project, and the worrying ever increasing debt of the U.S. economy.

  3. Salacious B. Crumb – I am also quite worried about funding for the project, if the funds are
    going to come from doing cutbacks on very important space research sattillites and other space related items?!?Manned missions to the Moon and back is ultra expensive and will not be routine for the rest of the century and into the next!!!! I believe the US should team up with China and other very interested nations for such costly missions.

  4. Back in 1961, JFK said “we are going to put a man on the Moon by the end of this decade”, and supposedly so, USA did put a man on the Moon in 1969…

    But now, Bush junior said in 2004 “we are going to put a man on the Moon in 2016”, and now Bin Obama says “we are not going to put a man on the Moon by 2016, but only by 2020″…

    Now I wonder if those Conspiracy theorists are right, that in fact we never put a man on the Moon in 1969, because it does not makes sense at all that 40 years ago people had more capability, will, to put a man on the Moon…

    I think that now, 40 years later, we have better technology, more knowledge, and if we follow simple logic then we should be able to put man on the Moon in just 2 years, not 8 years that supposedly was needed back in 1961 through 1969.

    Looks like Conspiracy Theorists are correct in this case.

  5. BAUT means uninformed and low IQ Says:
    “Looks like Conspiracy Theorists are correct in this case.”

    I have some colourful metaphors I would love to use for that comment.

    The main reason it is going to take so long to prepare this time around is because everything to do be done has to be super safe and on a small budget, now in the 60’s there was plenty of money and minimum safety regulations.

  6. The largest debtor nation on earth including more money for a moon program does not correspond with certainty.

  7. Well, if we are going to the moon again, build a huge outpost there. Let’s start seriously colonizing it.

    I’m not kidding. :/

  8. While I’m all about the cool video we will get out of it, explain to me again the scientific purpose of returning men to the moon?

    I figured that since this was a Bush program, Obama would kill it.

  9. @Mr. Greenjeans

    We’re throwing 800 billion at financial institutions who should have known how to handle money in the first place. 2 billion for the space program is a pittance compared to that… or should we drop our financial sector for being a waste of money?

  10. Going to the moon is simply re-proving our technology and hopefully not delaying further steps by another 60 years.

    To infinity and beyond!

  11. Nasa should look into mining the moon for helium-3, any thing that can be brought back to earth or used on the moon expansion and profit. (cover the cost part)
    At the same time setup few telescopes to observe the universe and observe earth as well, what ever the study is….(Science part)
    I believe any moon base we setup should be underground for better protection. Instead of sending bulldozers send drilling machines to create the caves etc….
    All this will come true if we can develop a safe, cheap and reliable way to get off the surface of Earth.


  12. Baut=When JFK made the 1961 speech, the US was still far,far ahead of any other Nation on Earth In GDP with the exception of USSR which was still smaller. The US just went throught the 1950’s with ultra-low inflation or actually in 1954 inflation was a negative figure and the US still producted more oil than consuming. The US was scared of USSR space achievements in 1961 as they were quite ahead of the US, and at the time it was thought the USSR had more nuclear warheads and delivery systems. It did not take long to get the US populous behind JFK in the space race to the Moon. By the 4rd 5th Apoll Mission the Americans were getting tired of Moon walks and the Vietnam war was still on most peoples minds, and inflation really started to take off, besides finding out that the perceived USSR advantage in warheads in the late 50s’ was not true but a good USSR deception of flyiing the same bombers around and around the viewing site
    where the CIA was sitting,- thus started the Nuclear arms race-we had hundred of MinuteMan1 missiles and started to replace Titan1 with Titan2 with a 9MT warhead, then in 1963 USSR tested their 58MT metro buster, and by 1967 or si had their SS9 with 25MT warhead comissioned where in the late 60s’ the US used the ‘shotgun’ effect using 14 warheads on each Polaris Sub missile or 14x40KT where by the Mid 70s’ the USSR commisioned their SS17,18,19 where the giant SS18 replaced the SS9 and the SS18 had either 10 warheads or 10x550KT and large 25MT warhead on other SS18 then pressure from the young US public was to get Reagon elected president and the MX or the Peacefeeper with 10x335kt was commissioned. The INF treaty, to get rid of all Intermediate Range Missiles, or 150-3000miles or 240KM- 4800KM distance was the breakthrough in the crazy race like a bunch of boys telling each other I have bigger rocks, while the other says I found and have bigger rocks! BTW- for info on how effective who knew what numbers about the # IRM, the CIA though there was 250 SS20 3X200kt, then Gorbachev said guess what , we have 520 SS20, then the military was sheepish by saying , Sir, we really have 758- Govbachev was fuming, the CIA was red! lol.
    Baut Back to going to the Moon- many Countrys in the World are not that far behind the US in GDP, and China is catching up fast, the EU is larger, and the US has massive deficits, I saw a simplified US budget, the US is spending at least 55% of the budget for military spending for INTEREST on borrowing from foreign governments, savings bonds, T-bills,– we import near 70% of our petroleum-although our inflation is getting higher and as yet did not reach the double digit rates of the mid 70s’ to early 80s’,
    it is a concern. Our grade school systems is not really teaching science and math correctly, that’s why I and many have sent out kids to private schools to learn much better.
    In 1961, in relation to today, in 1961 in a 100meter race, the US finished first while the rest of the pack had 150pounds of manure around their waste and arms and did not even cover 10meters. Today, those other countries heaved their manure bags away and now a 100meter race shows the US getting to the finish line perhaps 1st, but on both sides of the eyes were aware the others were very close. Bact- it is a matter of economics and the thinking and education of young people in the US and the US mindframe who are the new threats, while not country killers, more of a serious localize menus that can be kill hundreds of thousands and ruin our economy.

  13. addendum=correction I’ve should have said the US buget had spending for Interest for Borrowing is about 24% of the total budget , the budget as a % of military spending I don’t know, I am using figures I still have on my memory and from about 4 years ago as I did not as yet look thru the ‘net to see the newest budget. I am scared to see what it is today!!!!!!

  14. Honestly I feel RLV’s are better left cooking in the hands of the military. We need the mil-industrial technical ability and we need people of focused aggression to hammer this thing into line.

    What we don’t need is just another spaceship. We need one that can be mass produced, soldier proofed, turned around quickly on a dirt airfield in Zimbabwe and rated for flight in all weather conditions.

    Failing to get that, returning to the moon sounds like the best possible goal.
    Vaun Braun was forced to give up on moon exploration just to meet the landing deadline. So the US of all nations has many good reasons to return.

    Maybe in the process of learning to live on the moon we’ll discover things worth traveling there for.
    To that end, going to the moon may be the best thing to trigger the development of a near future RLV.

  15. @ Kevin F:

    Where the US spent the money is irrelevant. Notice the past tense. They spent it. It’s gone. Future spending based on money that isn’t there is stupid, a bad example, irresponsible, and does nothing to inspire confidence. Arguments about bailouts are irrelevant. Balancing the books is all that matters….or at least that’s what every family in the world learns unless it likes inviting debt collectors over for dinner.

  16. “Now I wonder if those Conspiracy theorists are right, that in fact we never put a man on the Moon in 1969, because it does not makes sense at all that 40 years ago people had more capability, will, to put a man on the Moon…”

    It may not make sense, but that doesn’t keep it from being true.

    No public support for continued manned Lunar exploration, no money for same from Congress.

    Likewise, no money for serious development work in the interim on how better to go back.

    There’s no need to invoke conspiracies, because you’re right. The will and capability were indeed NOT there anymore. Lyndon Johnson said at the time as Apollo wound down (quoting as best I can):

    “The American people have paid a great deal to build up this fantastic capability, and now they’re going to p–s it all away.”

    Now that we’ve decided to go back, we’re doing it by essentially re-doing Apollo (albeit with some new technology), rather than a more evolutionary, sustainable approach. And I fear that after a few successes (even sooner, if there’s a serious failure), we may call it all home again for possibly another generation.

    (Of course if, say, China and India are seriously in the game as well, we may not want to appear to be surrendering the Moon to others. [Though that’s not a good reason to conduct Manned Lunar exploration in an inefficient manner.] Perhaps the most important fact isn’t that the US reached the Moon first, but that the Soviets did not reach it at all [and then pretending they never wanted it, anyway], giving us less reason to try to maintain a presence.)

  17. @ Kevin F:

    Yes, absolutely. I would like nothing better than to see the US spend even more than all the bailouts combined on “all things space.”

    Unfortunately, debt overshadows this.

  18. Yes the shuttle should be retired and we should start going back to the moon. This is what makes America Great

  19. “Nasa should look into mining the moon for helium-3, any thing that can be brought back to earth or used on the moon expansion and profit. (cover the cost part)”

    To be sold to whom?

    Until fusion reactors are available on a commercial (not just barely breakeven) scale, mining He3 won’t matter. And if that day comes, it should be a private company doing this, not an aerospace research and development arm of the government.

    Neither the U. S. Geological survey, nor the Bureau of Land Management drill of oil, after all…

  20. “we should be able to put man on the Moon in just 2 years, not 8 years that supposedly was needed back in 1961 through 1969.”

    You’re missing an important point. The US cannot do anything as quickly now as in the past. It would take three times longer to build the Hoover Dam now than it did in the 1930’s.

    Safety, lawsuits, and environmentaist, hippie greenie wack-o’s have slowed production and accomplishments to a crawl.

  21. Not to mention that we don’T have the motivation of the words of a martyred president and Cold War competition today. Otherwise, while we probably would have gotten to the Moon by now, it might well have taken longer, and been done in a very different way.

    Apollo was driven by schedule, not so much by economics.

  22. 5-year gap? What about SpaceX and the ISS?

    And unless Buzz really wants to rely on 40-year old technology to base visits to the asteroids and mars on, buddy, we better refresh a little bit and maybe go back to the moon with a new point of view. One click removed from pure science, one click closer to applied science. We’ll still be looking at the technology as much as we did in Apollo, but we’re going to be taking closer looks at the moon, too. A lunar base is an obvious rehearsal for many aspects of space travel and is in the next set of logical steps after LEO.

    Let’s do go back to the moon a la Feynman’s cargo cult science speech. Unnecessary, no, I think it’s very necessary. What if it were you on that tuna can to Mars?

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