Barack Obama plan kills moon funding; NASA Constellation, Ares, Orion: RIP

President Barack Obama's administration is cutting NASA's moon mission funding. His budget plan for reducing the deficit kills the Constellation, Ares, and Orion programs, but opens the door to private enterprise. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers wonder what it all means.

By Richi Jennings. February 2, 2010.

Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Facebook (you're doing it wrong)...

    Joel Achenbach summarizes:

The battle over space has begun. And it's likely to be brutal. ... Obama ... is attempting to kill NASA's ambitious back-to-the moon program ... The Constellation program had already run through about $9 billion. ... Instead of going back to the moon, the administration wants to invest $6 billion over five years in a commercial taxi to orbit. The idea is to let the private sector take over the routine flights into space.


Where, exactly, are we going to go other than the ISS? Answer: TBD. But we're going to develop new technologies. We'll have orbital refueling. We'll have new propulsion. So we'll be all dressed up and ready to go -- somewhere.

Fred Guterl talks outsourcing:

It's hard to overstate how big a change this is over the way the space agency has operated in the past, when it controlled every step in the process. ... NASA will still have an oversight role, but it means an end to the practice of issuing reams of regulations governing every single bolt.


The change was a long time in coming. ... So the Obama administration is cutting the cord. Specifically, it’s canceling the Ares I booster and the Orion capsule, which were supposed to replace the Shuttle. ... It will still develop a big launcher to send people to distant places, like Mars—a task consistent with the space agency’s core mission (to inspire).

Toby Young says why spaceflight matters to democracy:

A couple of years ago, my best friend Sean Langan was kidnapped by the Taliban while making a documentary. ... During his three-month ordeal he was interrogated by his captors many times. ... They refused to believe that America had put men on the moon and, again and again, they tried to browbeat him into admitting that NASA’s programme of manned space flight had been an elaborate hoax.


The moon landings are clear evidence of the superiority of everything the Taliban are opposed to. ... These Islamist terrorists' ... response was to insist the moon landings hadn’t happened. ... This is why it is so short-sighted of Barack Obama to cancel the Constellation Programme. ... as a piece of global political theatre it would have been worth every penny.

Ben Sandilands opines from Oz:

This is about much more than the symbolism and science of the original moon race of half a century ago. ... It is about American engagement with the race that China, Russia, Europe and India are already running hard in the space industry stakes.


In this sense, the Obama administration is doing something at least a decade overdue, and ensuring that the US has its own new generation reusable spacecraft instead of having to rely unduly on Russian Soyuz launches ... [and] to own the future profits of the next generation of heavy reusable space lifters. ... The heavy industrial space age is already happening, with or without America.

So who are these private companies? Eric Engleman enlightens and elaborates: CEO Jeff Bezos' project to take paying passengers into space is lining up a big potential customer: NASA [which] is giving $50 million in federal stimulus funds to five companies — including Bezos' firm, Blue Origin — to develop systems to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. ... The other companies receiving funding are aerospace giant Boeing, Paragon Space Development Corp., Sierra Nevada Corp., and United Launch Alliance.


Bezos is one of several business moguls — among them PayPal co-founder Elon Musk and British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson — who are developing space vehicles of various kinds. Often mocked as vanity projects, these companies are being taken more seriously [now].

Andrew Moseman discovers these factoids:

Lost in the furor over Constellation is the fact that Obama’s budget actually increases NASA funding slightly. ... Private companies were on track to reach orbit faster than the Constellation program even before this proposed sea change in the government’s approach to spaceflight.


NASA had seen lots of infighting over whether Constellation, and especially its Ares rockets, were the right approach. Now it might have to accept losing them for good.

So what's your take?
Get involved: leave a comment.

And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

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