May 8, 2009 | 1
The White House yesterday announced that it will convene a 10-member independent panel to thoroughly review NASA's plans for human spaceflight. The announcement calls into doubt the agency's current cornerstones for manned missions, including the planned replacement for the soon-to-be-retired space shuttle and the stated goal of returning humans to the moon by 2020.
In a teleconference with reporters today, the panel's chair, former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, gave few hints as to the future of manned spaceflight in the U.S., saying that his group's mission was simply to "take a fresh look and go where the facts are and basically call it the way we see it."
Apr 23, 2009 | 16
NASA's stated goal of returning humans to the moon by 2020, which received a tentative boost in February with an affirmation in President Barack Obama's budget request for fiscal year 2010, is reportedly now in danger.
According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel quoting unnamed NASA engineers and contractors, the space agency's timelines "are quietly being revised" in light of ongoing technical and budgetary problems. That revision, engineers told the newspaper, means the "2020 date to send humans back to the moon is in deepening trouble."
The agency has pushed back by two years its internal timeline for the scheduled moon launch of Ares V, a planned heavy-cargo carrier rocket, according to the Sentinel report. NASA had reportedly tagged the Ares V with a 2018 internal target—which builds in leeway for unforeseen problems—for a lunar launch, while announcing a 2020 date to the public. Grey Hautaluoma, a spokesperson for NASA, declined to comment on the Sentinel story. "We won't have any comment about our budgets and schedules until the 2010 budget is released next month," Hautaluoma said.
Jan 5, 2009 | 6
President-elect Barack Obama may put NASA to work with the Defense Department to better compete in space.
Unidentified sources tell Bloomberg News that Obama may tap Defense rockets for space travel because they may be cheaper and available before NASA's new Orion crew capsule and boosters, which won't be ready until 2015. The current shuttle fleet is scheduled to be retired next year, though some, such as the Center for American Progress (CAP), have advocated extending their use until a replacement is ready.
Obama has alluded to using Defense money for the space program, and has said he would like to close the five-year gap between the current fleet's retirement and the completion of Orion. Pentagon boosters have been suggested as a way to speed up the Orion program to more quickly replace the shuttle — and possibly avoid the cost of developing a new booster.
Sep 8, 2008 | 4
NASA's chief is fuming over what he calls a "jihad" by the White House to retire the space shuttle and delay the development of a new moon rocket.
In an Aug. 18 e-mail obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, which reported its contents yesterday, NASA administrator Mike Griffin says he is "as pessimistic as it is possible to be" about the space program.
When he took the helm at NASA in 2005, Griffin planned to retire the shuttle in 2010 to free up money for the Constellation program — a project set to build over the next three years a new generation of space vehicles that includes the Ares moon rocket and Orion crew capsule, according to the Sentinel. But budget constraints have extended that timeline to 2015.
Aug 20, 2008 | 7
Budding astronauts, avert your eyes. NASA has posted photos of a failed test landing (read: crash) of a mock-up of the Orion crew exploration vehicle, part of the Constellation program to replace the shuttle in 2015.
NASA dropped the Orion mock-up from a C-17 aircraft flying 25,000 feet about the U.S. Army's Yuma Testing Grounds in Arizona on July 31. The good news: All but one of 18 parachutes inflated. The bad news: That 18th one was responsible for orienting the mock-up for a safe landing (see results at left). The space agency said it was torn and didn't inflate properly.
Keith Cowing of NASAWatch.com wonders why NASA isn't advertising the new images, posted online yesterday without fanfare.
Aug 15, 2008
Here's a scenario that might be going through the minds of NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff and his two fellow Russian crew members on the International Space Station (ISS).
Lawmakers warned this week that escalating tensions with Russia may leave the U.S. without ready transport to the ISS after NASA retires the space shuttle fleet in 2010.
The space agency does not expect the shuttle's replacement, the Orion—an Apollo-like craft being developed as part of the Constellation program—to be ready to fly until 2015. NASA's plan was for the interim was to use Russian Soyuz craft (left) to send up crew and cargo to the $100 billion station.
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