NASA has announced its plans for the next few years. With the Constellation program for a manned moon landing axed, the focus will instead be on missions to the International Space Station and flight beyond Earth’s orbit.
New initiatives will include what NASA is calling Flagship Technology Demonstrations – new technologies such as orbital fuel depots, inflatable habitats and using planetary atmospheres instead of rockets for braking.
This program would cost $6 billion over the next five years.
The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is to get $5.8 billion over the same period to develop a commercial program for carrying cargo and astronauts to the space station.
And over the next five years, $3.1 billion will go on heavy lift propulsion research and new rockets that can lift the large payloads needed for deep space exploration.
The cancellation of Constellation is likely to lead to the loss of several thousand jobs.
“We’re expanding the amount of programs that we have so that we can try to put people to work who are interested in being part of the space program,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden.
“Are we going to be able to employ everybody that used to work in shuttle? No, we’re not, but that was never a vision.”
The plans have drawn widespread criticism.
“None of the proposals announced today change the fact that the President seems willing to hand off American dominance in human space flight to other nations like Russia and China,” said Rep Pete Olsen, whose district includes Johnson Space Center.
“Opposition to killing Constellation, the program of record, is growing by the day and I will not stop fighting to maintain America’s ability to travel to low earth orbit and beyond without hitching an expensive ride with Russia.”