Friday, April 4, 2008

Shortsighted vision thing

What is going on at NASA? The U.S. space program, long a source of immense pride, appears to be in trouble because of inadequate planning and funding. According to a report presented Thursday to Congress by the General Accounting Office, NASA's ambitious plans to build a new space vehicle to ferry astronauts to the moon and to Mars is foundering. The space agency's Constellation Program, charged with building the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle to replace the shuttle, is in danger of collapse because of a lack of resources, the GAO report indicated. "If something goes wrong with the development of the Ares I or the Orion, the entire Constellation Program could be thrown off course and the return to human spaceflight delayed," the report said. The report also said the agency's test facilities were inadequate for testing the Ares I engine. "From its beginning, NASA's Exploration initiative has suffered from chronic under-funding, with a 'once-in-a-generation' project to develop a new space transportation system 'shoehorned' into a NASA budget that in some years hasn't even kept pace with inflation," said Mark Udall (D—Colo.), chairman of the House subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, according to the Reuters international news service. Former astronaut Kathryn Thornton, a professor at the University of Virginia, said costs linked to retiring the shuttle had not been accounted for in NASA budgets. Inadequate planning, unrealistic budgeting — where have we heard that before?

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