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Watchdog criticizes rising costs, delays of NASA’s next Moon rocket

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The giant rocket NASA plans to use to return to the Moon by 2024 has been beset by delays and spending has overrun by almost 30 percent, an official audit said Wednesday.

The delays threaten the timetable set by President Donald Trump’s administration to place astronauts on lunar soil five years from now, testing the next generation of spacecraft ahead of an eventual crewed mission to Mars.

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The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the cost of the first, single-use Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is being built by Boeing, had risen from $6.2 billion to $8 billion, or 29 percent.

Its first flight was set to take place in November 2018, a date later revised to June 2020, but even that target is now “unlikely,” the GAO said, adding “the first launch may occur as late as June 2021.”

The program has previously been criticized by some in the space community as a patronage project kept alive because of its importance for jobs, especially in Alabama, the state represented by the senator who oversees appropriations including NASA’s finances.

The watchdog also accused the space agency of being opaque in its cost calculations.

“NASA’s management decisions on how to report cost growth is not fully transparent and, in particular, obscures the difficulties the SLS program has faced controlling costs,” the report said.

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Costs for the Orion capsule being built by Lockheed Martin that will transport the astronauts had also grown.

NASA estimated this cost overrun at 5.6 percent but GAO said that was based on an inaccurate launch date and the real figure would be much higher.

The audit also criticized NASA for continuing to award Boeing and Lockheed Martin millions of dollars a month in “award fees” for good performance and urged the space agency to “reevaluate its strategy to incentivize contractors to obtain better outcomes.”

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It singled out Boeing for particular criticism, saying the aeronautical giant had “underestimated the staffing levels required to build the core stage in the time available” and had focused on minimizing the number of technicians, in part to keep its costs low.

It eventually hired the required number of technicians but many did not have a background in spaceflight and time was lost getting them up to speed.


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Mulvaney’s ‘astonishing public act of legal self-destruction’ can be used against Trump: ex-prosecutor

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In the opening segment on CNN's "New Day," former prosecutor Elie Honig claimed he was stunned by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's press conference on Thursday, saying he just handed prosecutors all they need to go after President Donald Trump.

Speaking with hosts Alisyn Camerota and John Berman, the former prosecutor  could only describe Mulvaney's presser, where he admitted that the administration was indulging in quid pro quo negotiations with foreign governments to get dirt on political opponents, as an "astonishing public act of legal and strategic self-destruction."

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‘They have a responsibility to not be stupid’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe slaps Trump’s ‘ignorant’ rally-goers for swallowing Trump lies

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough blamed President Donald Trump's supporters for failing their most basic civic responsibility by remaining willfully ignorant and swallowing his lies.

The president claimed his betrayal of the Kurds was actually keeping them safe, despite credible reports of war crimes against them by Turkey, and the "Morning Joe" host challenged rally-goers to open their eyes -- and believe what they see.

"It's the responsibility to people that show up at those rallies to not be stupid, to not be so stupid that they should be kept away from blenders," Scarborough said. "All they have to do is spend three seconds actually watching the news, all they have to do is spend three seconds on Google, spend three seconds talking to somebody that is not completely brainwashed to see that this is a horrible deal for the Kurds."

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‘This was the smoking gun!’ MSNBC’s Morning Joe explains why Mulvaney ‘confession’ could end Trump presidency

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had offered "smoking gun" evidence in a stunning confession to the crime at the heart of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

The "Morning Joe" host said Mulvaney had made a stunning "confession," but he said the president had on the same day endorsed the ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish allies he had betrayed to Turkey.

"There's so much to talk about, we joke for a few minutes at the top of the show, Mika likes do that, me, I like to get straight into the news," said Scarborough, who frequently annoys his wife and co-host by bantering about sports at the start of the show. "But there's so much going on that if somebody just woke up this morning they might not think that yesterday was not one of the most significant news days in, during the Trump presidency, and I may even argue one of the most significant news days over perhaps the last decade, just in terms of volume."

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