- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2010

President Obama is dramatically revamping America’s space program, killing NASA’s $100 billion plans to return man to the moon and using much of that money for new rocket research.

The moon plan, which NASA had already spent $9.1 billion on, was based on old technology and revisiting places astronauts had already been, officials said. The previous NASA chief, in selling the old moon plan, had even called it “Apollo on steroids.”

“Simply put, we’re putting the science back into the rocket science at NASA,” White House science adviser John Holdren said at a budget briefing Monday.

The $4 billion that NASA spends yearly on human space exploration will now be used for what NASA and White House officials called dramatic changes in rocketry, including in-orbit fueling. They said eventually those new technologies would be used to send astronauts to a nearby asteroid, a brief foray back to the moon, or to the Martian moons.

The White House plan was short on details, such as where astronauts would fly next, on what type of rocket ship, or when. However, officials were quick to point out the failures of the George W. Bush administration’s moon program, called Constellation. It included the construction of two types of rockets, Ares I and Ares V, and an Orion crew capsule. All were canceled. Shutting down the program will cost about $2.5 billion, NASA said.

Mr. Bush proposed the moon mission after the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster that claimed seven lives.

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill criticized the loss of programs and jobs.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, an Alabama Republican whose state houses the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center, called the cuts the “death march for the future of U.S. human spaceflight.”

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