Obama changes Nasa’s course
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama is essentially grounding efforts to return astronauts to the moon and instead is sending Nasa in new directions with roughly $6 billion (R45.3bn) more, according to officials familiar with the plans.
A White House official confirmed reports that when next week’s budget is proposed, Nasa will get an additional $5.9bn over five years. Some of that money would extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020. It also would be used to entice companies to build private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station after the space shuttle retires.
The money in the president’s budget is not enough to follow through with Nasa’s plan for flights to the moon, which had been initiated by former president George Bush and has already cost $9.1bn.
A new direction for Nasa has been on hold for several months while an independent commission studied options and the White House weighed them up. Obama’s choice will be made clear on Monday when he releases his 2011 budget proposal.
Space policy scholar John Logsdon, who was on an Obama space campaign advisory committee, said Obama was adopting the preferred option of a White House-appointed outside panel of experts last year. That concept includes reliance on a commercial spaceship, a space station that functions for five more years than planned, and a “flexible path” for human space exploration.
That might mean trips to a nearby asteroid, a Martian moon or a brief visit to the moon, instead of the Bush plan for a moon base by the end of the decade. – Sapa-AP