President Barack Obama will ask Congress next year to fund a new heavy-lift launcher to take humans to the moon, asteroids, and the moons of Mars, ScienceInsider has learned. The president chose the new direction for the U.S. human space flight program Wednesday at a White House meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, according to officials familiar with the discussion. NASA would receive an additional $1 billion in 2011 both to get the new launcher on track and to bolster the agency’s fleet of robotic Earth-monitoring spacecraft.
If this is true, it would mean Ares would be scrapped for another, simpler heavy-lift vehicle that could be ready to fly as early as 2018. Science News also said that European countries, Japan, and Canada would be asked to work on a lunar lander and modules for a moon base, saving the U.S. several billion dollars, and commercial companies would take over the job of getting supplies to the international space station.
So, what about the “flexible path” suggested by the Augustine Commission? If this plan is implemented, U.S. partners focus on lunar exploration, and NASA — while helping out with the Moon missions, might also focus on missions to asteroids and Phobos and Deimos to prepare for a later human landing on the Red Planet in the distant future. To prepare for human visits, NASA may order additional robotic missions to the martian moons and asteroids in coming years.
Nothing’s official yet; we’ll have to wait and see what actually transpires….
What’s your opinion on this possible turn of events?