President Obama announced this week that he is shutting down NASA’s Constellation program, a $9 billion program that has planned to bring to man back to the moon’s surface by 2020. President Obama, however, is not cutting out all space exploration. A panel of “outside” experts came to the conclusion that NASA is unable to afford the continuation of Constellation, and instead NASA should continue low-Earth exploration and also continue to develop a heavy-lift rocket to eventually launch man to the moon or even Mars. This is considered a “more ambitious” strategy than Constellation because it allocates $2 billion to upgrading the Kennedy Space Center as well as $40 million to an economic development action plan to “help the local work force make the transition” (CBS News, April 14, 2010).
These eventual flights to Mars - using the heavy lift rocket so far being called “Orion Light”, after the Orion craft from the Constellation program- will cost $3 billion over the next five years. NASA will also spend $6 billion on development of technology and infrastructure which will result in an estimated 2500 more jobs according to the NASA administration.
Currently there are only three more missions to the space station planned and the shuttle program is slated to retire at the end of this year. The loss of the shuttle program is said to lay off 7,000 people at the Kennedy Space Center alone. According to Obama’s administration the new programs being implemented will not make up for the loss of jobs due to the shuttle program’s retirement, but additional spending will make up for the cancellation of Constellation.
According to NASA administrator Charles Bolden pursuing new technologies will create new jobs, products and industries. Included in these new industries are propulsion systems, habitats in deep space, and possible space fuel depots. According to Bolden NASA will be taking a “phased approach” to the new programs (Reuter’s, April 13, 2010).