Obama changes Nasa’s course

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

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

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