Monday, July 19, 2010

Planetary Exploration in the new NASA program

If you follow space exploration at all, you are probably aware that NASA's manned spaceflight program is undergoing a major overhaul.  A vigorous debate has broken out about how to replace the goals and programs of the previous moon-based plan with a new program that will fit within the projected NASA budget.  In the US, the President generally proposes program direction but Congress must ratify and fund that direction.  The in's and out's of the debate are outside the scope of this blog.  However, it appears that a compromise has been developed and approved as an authorization by the Senate.  Authorizations are essentially Congress' policy documents that are supposed to guide the actual budget, but the connection between the two are sometimes tenuous.  If you are interested in following the process, I recommend

I've held off on reporting on this process until a consensus had appeared to form.  According to Aviation Week and Space Technology (subscription article), the current proposal will leave the President's request for FY11 science funding -- including the planetary program -- untouched.  This would be good news since the proposed budget provides a one time increase above the inflation level for the planetary program.  However, the technology development program (which is part of the manned rather than science budget) will be dramatically reduced to help pay for the other elements of the manned spaceflight program.  This budget was to have included an ambitious program of precursor missions to the moon, near Earth asteroids, and Mars.  We'll have to wait for the details of the final budget to see if any of these proposed missions will survive.

No comments:

Post a Comment