A plan to return US astronauts to the moon “is dead,” a White House adviser on space issues said Friday, confirming reports that NASA will instead focus on developing commercial space transport.
“Constellation is dead,” the adviser told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to a program that envisioned returning to the moon by 2020 and using Earth’s nearest neighbor as a base for manned expeditions to Mars.
Florida Today newspaper first reported the demise of the program Thursday, saying the plan was doomed by financial constraints in the 2011 budget which President Barack Obama is to present to Congress on Monday.
Reports added that the US space agency will work on finding a commercial solution to ferrying US astronauts to the International Space Station after the scheduled end of NASA’s shuttle program in September 2010.
Only five more shuttle flights, including a mission by the Endeavor set for a February 7 launch, are planned.
Astronauts will be able to hitch rides aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but the United States will need a commercial alternative if Congress approves White House plans to scrap development of a successor to the shuttle program.
The administration reportedly plans to hike NASA’s budget by 5.9 billion dollars over five years to boost commercial development, with the goal of a first commercial flight to the ISS launching by 2015, the source said.
The Constellation program was launched in 2004 by then-president George W. Bush.
Space expert John Logsdon said the abandonment of the program did not spell the end for US ambitions in space.
“While Constellation is dead, it does not mean human space exploration is also dead,” said Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.
He said NASA would probably start to plan with the private sector and international partners for the future of the ISS past 2020.
Getting the cancellation through Congress would be “tough,” he added, as lawmakers from Florida and other states with close ties to the space program would oppose anything that threatened local jobs.
News of Constellation’s cancellation came as NASA marked its day of remembrance, honoring astronauts who died in the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia space missions.
President Obama released a statement paying tribute to those “who lost their lives supporting NASA’s mission of exploration and study of the Earth, the planets and the stars.”
“All of humanity has benefited from their courage and devotion,” he said.
“We mourn their loss while celebrating their spirit of discovery. May their sacrifice be an inspiration as we continue our nation’s work to explore our universe.”
Dick Cheney raising money for Trump’s re-election — with White House staffers Ivanka and Jared: report
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is raising money for President Donald Trump's re-election at a fundraiser in a ritzy western resort town.
"Former vice president Richard B. Cheney and his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), are to appear at a lunch fundraiser Monday in support of President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to an invitation to the event," The Washington Post reported Saturday. "The luncheon fundraiser in Jackson, Wyo., will feature White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, along with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as 'special guests,' according to the invitation, which was obtained by The Washington Post."
‘He believes he’s a king and a dictator’: Ex-GOP congressman backs impeaching ‘unfit conman’ Trump
President Donald Trump was blasted on MSNBC on Saturday by a former Republican congressman for being an "unfit conman."
Rev. Al Sharpton interviewed former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) about a recent New York Times op-ed he wrote calling for Trump to face a primary challenge from the right.
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Heather Heyer’s mom says things have gotten worse since Charlottesville — but she has a solution
CNN's Ana Cabrera on Saturday interviewed Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer. Her daughter was murdered by a white nationalist terrorist during the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
"When you watch what’s happening in Portland, thankfully everything right now is peaceful, but does it sort of give you that knee-jerk reaction where your hackles kind of go up, just given everything your family has been through?" Cabrera asked.
"My hackles don’t really go down anymore," Bro replied. "I am constantly tracking these things around the country as they happen. Yeah, I think after two years ago, mine will never completely go down again."