Voorzitter Norman Augustine zei over zijn opdracht onder meer: “We are planning to spend billions of dollars on the human space flight program and it’s wise to be sure we’re spending that the way we should…New information becomes available all the time. And similarly, we have a new administration and it would probably be imprudent on their part not to examine this major of a program to be sure such a long term undertaking is still on a course that makes sense to them.”
Het panel overweegt verschillende opties, maar in elk daarvan zitten ingrijpende keuzen rond de toekomst van de shuttle, de vervanging ervan, de nieuwe missie naar de Maan en de haalbaarheid van de bemande expeditie naar Mars.
One option would extend the shuttle beyond its scheduled expiration in 2010 and continue to operate the international space station well into the next decade rather than shuttering it by 2016. That would mean delaying a new launcher and putting on hold the lunar base proposed by President George Bush in 2004.
The panel also may recommend boosting NASA’s annual budget, now $18 billion, by $3 billion to $4 billion. The extra money would allow NASA to complete the shuttle replacement vehicle and rocket that would be used to travel to and from the moon—although likely later than the 2020 date proposed by Bush.
A third option is to send astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid rather than to the moon. Those sources say the panel has concluded that a human flight to Mars is too expensive to contemplate in the near term.
The budget request typically remains secret until its release, but one Administration official says that the president could announce a new direction for human space flight in the fall.
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