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NASA Stops Work on the Constellation Program

By June 15, 2010

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While Congress and the President have spent the last several months debating the future of NASA and the manned space program, the work of designing and implementing a new reusable exploration vehicle and launch system have continued. The problem is that this program, called the Constellation Program, was cancelled back in February when the President announced his budget plans.

Met with considerable criticism on various fronts about his abrupt change in direction for the space program, President Obama has back peddling somewhat on the future of some of NASA's programs. As a result the Constellation Program has remained in limbo. With no clear direction, and no directive to the contrary, NASA has continued development of several of the program's key elements (including rocket development, emergency abort systems, etc.)

While the political battle waged on, NASA was faced with a difficult decision. Should they continue development of a program that may not produce a final product that would be sustainable, or stop work now and wait for a new direction from the government. Of course no decision is clear cut, as stopping work on the program would cost potentially thousands of jobs, but continuing with such an expensive project (more than $10 billion has already been spent) doomed for failure is also a waste of taxpayer dollars.

It seems NASA has reached a decision. NASA chief Charles Bolden, broke the silence and stated "The truth is, we were not on a sustainable path to get back to the moon's surface", effectively ending the constellation program. Now it is up to the politicians to decide what the next step will be. It is still possible that elements of the Constellation Program could reemerge in a new program, but it is not clear what the new direction will be.

The immediate loss of jobs is unfortunate, but likely many of these individuals will find their way back to NASA once a new vision is cast. In the end, the saga that is the future of manned space flight continues.

Comments

June 15, 2010 at 6:37 pm
(1) Dave C says:

John,
I am sure you are aware of the continuation clause that Senator Shelby put in the 2010 budget, making it illegal to stop work or alter the Constellation Budget; and as we have not had a FY2011 budget as of yet presented to the president for signing, it looks like a Continuing Resolution for 2011; Bolden and Co. are thumbing their collective noses at Congress if they are indeed shutting down Constellation; either that or HE, individually has decided to fall on his sword for the FY2011 buget; I have wondered since Hanely was tranferred, who had it in for him; perhaps now we know;

June 18, 2010 at 9:46 am
(2) Ben says:

Having grown up in the 1980′s and seen many space shuttle launches over the years, I am disappointed that Barrack Obama has chosen to halt America’s leadership in space exploration. This is disappointing as it is one technical area in which the USA is the clear leader. This US President seems to hate all things associated with the US as world leaders.

June 21, 2010 at 2:11 pm
(3) Sam B says:

Ben, at the risk of waxing political, I agree with you 100%. It could be argued that our manned space program is a proxy statement of America’s pre-eminence on the world stage. The President seems to want that status diminished, to reduce America to the level of the lowest common denominator. His killing of funds for our continued exploration of space at the same time as he is calling for a second stimulus package would seem to support my position. The money isn’t there for space exploration, but it is there for another stimulus. Do the math.

I hate to see the manned space program have to sustain such a blow, but that, as they say, is above my pay grade.

June 21, 2010 at 6:36 pm
(4) Pamela Wetzel says:

This is disgraceful. President Obama is slowly but surely isolating us from our place in this planet’s progressive future. Other space faring countries will also suffer from our recession from space exploration. This is a bad mistake. With bad consequences.

July 12, 2010 at 11:44 am
(5) Paul Scutts says:

When the constellation programme was originally announced, I thought that finally NASA & the U.S. Government had got it right. The Number One priority for the human race is to get off this rock before an inevitable “extinction level event” occurs. Believe it or not, the Obama/Brodgen decision could spell the end of the human race!

July 20, 2010 at 11:26 am
(6) Robert Gibson says:

This was the decision that turned me off Obama.

July 20, 2010 at 8:16 pm
(7) James Will says:

I agree. Obama has completely lost the plot. What is he thinking?! NASA is at it’s best when given a clear goal and a timeline in which to achieve that goal. It looks like another 30 years messing around in Low earth orbit. Nice one Obama!

August 3, 2010 at 4:53 am
(8) Mark says:

I am an Automotive Student who has come far to get even here from my afflictions. I used to have an obscured view of which political party I belonged but now it is clear it isn’t about any strait vote. It is about dreaming of a better life and learning and exploring new bounds. That and God are the only thing that has aspired me to want to become an Astronaut Technician in Space myself and overcome so non surmountable afflictions growing up. Me being a young person not too long ago needed the Human Space Flight Program to give me hope; to give people in general hope. I honestly voted for this man but I honestly cannot see the logic in this decision to Axe funding for the Constellation Program. Luckily I plan to rise above and help to continue this dream of exploration and will not let this crush my dreams as an aspiring person in Science. It truly is wrong though and I hope to God a good result comes out of this.

November 3, 2010 at 11:04 am
(9) DLM says:

President Obama’s ruthless act of cancelling the Constellation program can only lead to “bad fruits” for the U.S. I don’t think we have to worry about terrorists taking over, invading, or destroying us… instead the Chinese will “buy-us-out” and hire India and Russia to “run” us. This is a sad day for America and those of us who were “raised” on Armstrong’s first lunar steps. The President’s actions show that he clearly “marches to the beat of his own drum” a practice that is happening more and more in America. My heart grieves for Floridians, the “Space Coast” (a stretch of beaches from Cape Canaveral to Melbourne Beach), and America as we slowly move from being leaders in exploration, an achievement we’ve led since Lewis and Clark, to the “horse and buggy” age. Godspeed Discovery… and America.

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