Where NASA will head during Obama's presidency is an open question. (His aides did not immediately respond to requests for comment.) As reported by the Washington Post last November, during the Democratic primary, Obama announced that his $18-billion-a-year package for early education and K-12 would be funded by "delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years." Later drafts of the education plan did not include the Constellation language.*
But a new position paper from the Center for American Progress (CAP) may offer a glimpse of the future. The CAP is a think tank headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Pres. Bill Clinton and one of the top aides on Obama's transition team. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the CAP paper states: "The decision to phase out the shuttle by 2010 should be reconsidered; it should be flown until a suitable replacement becomes available."
Bell fears that extending the shuttle's timeline will only push back other priorities, especially given the current financial climate. A 2010 retirement would free up the funding to pursue Constellation, he says, and would keep NASA on track. "The American space program," he says, "needs to move on."
*A more recent campaign document devoted solely to space exploration, in contrast, proposes expediting Constellation and extending the shuttle's service by at least one flight to narrow the five-year gap.