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Poll: Constellation cancellation (and more on spaceflight)

Shuttle When NASA does it, it's good for the country.

That's the guiding philosophy I can glean from those throwing temper tantrums over President Obama's proposal to kill NASA's 4-year-old Constellation program, the onetime successor to the retiring space shuttle that was to eventually return astronauts to the moon (and cost us more than $100 billion in the process). Critics of Obama's plan -- including senators whose states have the most to lose from Constellation's stillbirth -- accuse the president of dealing a crushing setback to American manned space exploration and ceding our leadership in the field to those dastardly Chinese and Indian boogeymen.

Wrong; in fact, I would assert the opposite. Sure, Obama's budget would shut down Constellation, but it also offers more support for private-sector spaceflight, which could reap major dividends well into the future. It directs NASA to leave the small stuff -- ferrying astronauts and cargo into low-Earth orbit -- to rockets built by contractors and focus on developing technologies that can help supersede the achievements in manned spaceflight made by the Apollo program more than 40 years ago. It also restores to NASA a crucial mission neglected during the George W. Bush years: Earth science, including monitoring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from space. Most important, Obama proposes to increase NASA's budget by $6 billion over the next five years -- hardly the action of a president so hostile to space science.

I would go so far as to say that Obama's order for NASA to make fundamental changes is long overdue. Over the last three decades, no president took the political risk of hitting the pause button on NASA while the agency poured its manned space exploration dollars into a program that killed 14 astronauts and was far too costly to truly be called a shuttle. Sure, there have been two multiyear flight interruptions over the program's history, but those involved returning the shuttle to flight after major disasters, not a fundamental reexamination of NASA's programs.

Anyhow, I promised a poll: Is Obama right to call for Constellation's cancellation? Take our unscientific poll, post a comment or do both.

-- Paul Thornton

Photo: Space shuttle Endeavour arrives at launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida January 6, 2010. Credit: Red Huber / MCT

 

Comments () | Archives (35)

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Jim Spellman

My only concern with the cancellation of Constellation is not so much the choice of the hardware (Ares 1 and Ares 5 just wouldn't cut it), but if private-sector spaceflight fails to materialize and produce as they promise. The privatization of human space exploration can still turn into a pipe dream even less substantial than the notion that mercenary armies under contract can adequately fight America's wars.

At any rate, "Earth science" -- including monitoring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from space -- should be the domain of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), not NASA.

andrew nelson

It's quite tiring to see the Obama Apologists, again, trying to defend the attack on science, by this administration. It's quite similar to the Berkley High School false dichotomy, where those of less ability, and far less legal claim, hold hostage those with more ability, in an attempt to receive a larger re-distribution from the more capable. I'm sorry to sound elitist and uncaring, but I would rather pursue science than set up yet another illegal welfare queen and her three bastard children.

Nov 2, 2010 can not come fast enough. My fun meter is pegged with the Hyde Park Chapter of the Chicago Mafia, and it's auxilary chapter here.

Bill Schwartz

We can afford to fund ridiculous projects in the name of an economic stimulus, but we are cheaping out on space exploration? Yeah, that makes sense. Mr. President, do you realize the purpose of space exploration? Humans are sitting ducks on this rock, and you're proposing to leave it up to a brand new private space industry that has had few successes so far? Give me a break. That's a discussion to be had at least fifteen years from now. I voted for Obama and have still been supporting him even though he hasn't made it easy. This is a deal breaker. The day Constellation is canceled is the day I make a sizable donation to the Republican favorite for 2012.

John Black

Well you are missing the bigger picture here. It is not just Constellation that is being cut, it is the whole manned space program! The vague talk about new technologies and new heavy lift rocket are just distractions. There are no guidelines, nor timeline, nor budget for any type of rocket or any type of manned spacecraft. There are NO new technologies that can take us to orbit or beyond in less than 20 years.

As for private sector - it is another pipe dream. The private sector just launched its first satellites (after many failures). Even if they are twice as fast as NASA, with so little funding (6 bln instead of 20 bln) we will be lucky if they launch human into orbit before 2020 (that is into orbit, not to the Moon!). Furthermore, they do not have any incentive to go anywhere beyond the low earth orbit.

Just the thought that it would be to risky and expensive to try to go to the Moon and beyond using proven technology and then announcing that we will somehow discover magical new cheap way to do it is insulting! The budget of NASA is less than 0.5% of the total federal spending and the required increase is just 0.1%. Fine, we get it, the Obama administration hates NASA but way destroying the human space flight program?! Just underfund it and leave it to the future administrations to decide!

Showboat

Personally,

I think this is a really bad idea to try and save money. Here we're going to be depending on the corporate sector to bring astronauts to space, when there isn't a market for that! If there was, there would have been businesses that do that already! It's a lame way to shift numbers so that Obama can look like he's "saving"
money when in reality any time that something in Government like this is outsourced it costs more and is less safe or has less quality.

As much as a lover of business as I am, this is a REALLY bad move.

dilys

This budget cancels NASA's Constellation program, and gives money to the private sector to build vehicles for space. After years of work by thousands of people and NINE BILLION dollars of taxpayer money, they . . the government . . .decides to throw is all away. THe NASA administrator essentially says . . whatever. Over and over again money has been wasted because the government cannot stick with its commitments. Programs funded one year are redesigned to accomodate a cut in funding in succeeding years, more money wasted. Programs funded are cancelled before they can even show results, not because what they are planning is not feasible, but because they must depend on a fickle Congress to allocate funding. And I am sure NASA is not the only government agency to have similar problems.

In history it was always desirable to have the best technolgies, albeit most were in the arena of warfare, and to hold the high ground.

In the development of space flight, technologies have been developed that benefit our daily existence. Look up the Spinoff website and on the first page alone NASA research helped develop technologies for biohazard sensors, life rafts, bioreactors for producing healthy cells for cultures, and new more efficient air purifacation. Research done for any new program spawns new and beneficial discoveries.
And the high ground, you think if NASA gets out of manned spaceflight that other countries won't see this as an opportunity for them to field their own program for the prestige, the discoveries, to have the whole world watching when they accomplish what we abondoned? Think of countries whose interests might be quite different from ours with control of the ultimate high ground. So much science is expended in the cause of war, yet one of our most challenging and beneficial accomplishments was for the very human desire to explore our world and beyond. NASA's imaging of our world has been a great boon to science studying the earth's climate, resources, and weather. The Hubble Telescope has moved our knowlege to the edges of space, to discovering new planets, tu the understanding of our universe.

Last, think of your work, what ever work you do, how much of yourself invested in it. Teach children for five years, then discover that someone has taken all that knowledge from their minds. Do all the research for to diagnose and treat a disease, design and plan a bridge over a bay or river, a bridge to help people bring produts to market, or connect two countries, now that you have solved many of the problems, done the hard work of requirements, spent years on it, your company decides not to give you money to make the drug or build the bridge, but to give the money to some other company along with all your work, but make YOU responsible if something goes wrong.

THe cancellation of Constellation is short-sighted, wasteful, and destructive to the very thing we need most to create new technologies, to the people whose work creates that science, and must depend on shifting sand of government funding.

Please consider what this will mean to our future, to science, even to our security.

Paul Thornton

@Showboat and Jim Spellman: NASA critics point out -- correctly, in my view -- that the market for private spaceflight would grow tremendously if the space agency would enter it more fully. With NASA now a paying customer, the next several years could be very interesting one for private sector spaceflight.

@John Black: Funny how you decry the lack of timetables for the private sector when NASA has a history of not paying much attention to some of its own ones (remember, the International Space Station still isn't finished). The Ares rocket was already behind schedule, over budget and experiencing major technical problems. You also take for granted that it's the right mission for NASA to send astronauts back to the moon, an expensive goal based more on nostalgia than science.

@andrew nelson: You're completely wrong to call Obama's NASA budget proposal an "attack on science." The administration called for a major boost for earth science and robotic exploration, two fields that have a much stronger grounding in science than the scientifically dubious pursuit of sending Americans back to the moon.

Behar Mehmeti

I work on the Ares I program (part of constellation), and yes we have burned through a lot of money, but it is not only NASA's fault for not moving forward faster. While there is some inefficiencies in NASA, the reason for those inefficiencies and accidents date back to the chronic lack of funding that NASA gets under all the presidents since Nixon. I think that the USA has to get serious about Space Exploration and DOUBLE NASA’s budget and change the culture of NASA, hire new young engineers and scientist; force out old engineers. Adopt new development processes. If we do this we will have a good space exploration program. There is room for commercial rockets to send cargo and maybe astronauts to the ISS (like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule), but for space exploration you still need constellation. I hope constellation does not get canceled, remember Congress has the last word on this, not the President. America has always led space exploration, and we should all lead it, and as far as the Space Shuttle goes, the Space Shuttle is an experimental Space Ship, but in the 70s the only way that NASA could keep the program was to advertize it as a “space truck”.

pharris

Why NASA is duplicating the effort of many universities in studying world weather is beyond me - But BO also has the CIA looking into climate change so this cutting is expected. NASA - the people who put us on the moon and other moons / planets becomes weather watchers to please an environmental movement spewing forth fabricated studies to justify government interference in more of our lives.

andrew nelson

Back @Paul Thorton: Let me correct my error, "This administration's ATTACK on United States Science". The research for manned space flight will not be invested in, by business, unless you count the $20 million dollar ticket to ride in a RUSSIAN Soyuz shuttle to the Space Station. When the Global Positioning System was launched, by every vehicle, private or public, that NASA could get it's hands on, it ended up having to go to CHINA to get them to launch it on souped up "Long March" Ballistic Missles that the Clinton Administration then gave technology transfer to, for China to make the necessary upgrade, which then went right into their Satellite Killing Program, which they demonstrated this year, in the NEW Democrat Administration. Scientifically dubious? No. It's a hard problem, that when you solve it, you jump light years ahead of your competition. Moron.

Rick

I'm a huge fan of NASA. That being said, it's about time. They've been lost for 25 years with no political guidence other than throwing some paltry money at them.

The majority of that money has been spent on manned projects. Yet look at the success of their unmanned projects at lower cost.

NASA will continue o be the step child unless they and us come up with a worthy project to capture the public imaginatio again. And return to the moon is not it, sorry it's just not. Been there done that is the general feeling.

We won the race, it was always about competition "good vs evil" Free vs communist. NASA was a political answer to the Soviet Union. People forget that. They and the competition no longer exist.

Time for NASA to concentrate on other things.

Wolfgang Rumpf

Constellation was absolutely atrocious. It should never have gone as far as it did - it was based on 50-year old ideas. What we *need* to do is revive the Delta Clipper, or some similar technology. The DC *worked* until NASA got it's hands on it (search YouTube for the vids). A SSTO that would have made spaceflight cheap and regular, what the shuttle wanted to be but never could do (because it, also, was based on 40 year old technology). I'd prefer to see NASA in the game, but if they aren't capable of it then I hope some private industry gets something like the DC (or some other SSTO) going. Once they see the potential fortune to be made in the asteroid belt, you can bet private industry will go for it - unless China beats us there (recall they already said they have a goal to get to the moon so they can mine the resources like tritium)....

Kenneth James

I applaud the Obama administration's intelligent, reasonable, and forward-thinking proposal for the new NASA budget. However, the primary reason for my enthusiasm is not the outsourcing of manned low Earth orbit operations to commercial firms, though I feel it is a reasonable move and worth experimenting with to see if it is viable. Much more importantly than that, shifting NASA's priorities away from unproductive re-plays of Apollo and toward longer-term research and development, robotic exploration programs, and a heavy-lift vehicle, will make an enormous positive difference for the future of American space exploration -- manned and unmanned. The administration has done a great service to America with this shifting of priorities.

A lot of the negative rhetoric I read about this budget seems to take the approach that "it's a moon shot or nothing" -- as though we needed a moon shot to justify building a heavy lift vehicle. Doing it that way -- as with Constellation -- would have meant yoking the heavy lift vehicle project (and budget) to the development and building of the moon lander and life support system infrastructure, as well as to the timetable of the moon mission itself. But a heavy lift vehicle doesn't need a moon shot to justify its existence. You want to put stuff up there -- people, robotic probes, satellites, space stations, moon landers -- you need to develop a heavy lift vehicle. Obama's budget does that.

Also, notice how the Obama budget sets us up for a Mars mission far better than throwing our money at Constellation would do. We don't need to "practice" going to Mars by going to the moon. First, the environment of Mars is utterly different from the environment of the moon; the problems of living in the two places are very different in nature. "Practicing" for the Martian environment could be done much more efficiently by sending unmanned, self-monitoring "practice" bases directly to Mars and seeing how they do. Second, the *real* challenge to a Mars mission is, of course, the long-term exposure to zero gravity and the high-radiation space environment. Learning more about long-term exposure to space would be better served by extending the life of the ISS (which Obama's budget does). Mitigating the effects of this exposure would be better served by developing faster spacecraft (which Obama's budget also does).

In any case, there's an awful lot of "all or nothing" thinking going on amongst the critics of the budget. Like, the Obama administration *hates* the space program, the budget plan is *all* spin, commercial LEO flight will *never* work, canceling Constellation means the *end* of NASA, no moon shot means *no* progress in American manned space travel, no moon shot means the Chinese *get* the moon. This kind of thinking does not clarify the situation.

For example, if commercial low-earth-orbit vehicles turn out not to be the way to go, we'll do something else. If we're changing our direction now, we can also change it later. This applies to everything we're discussing here.

In any case, it is a damned good thing for American manned space travel that Constellation was canceled. Seeing Americans saunter around on the moon does not automatically mean the space program is headed in the right direction. It can mean that it is headed in the wrong direction, and while the Constellation program was still around, that's exactly what it did mean.

I think the Obama budget is a blast of fresh air, a little dose of sanity after 30 years of foolishness. If Congress can keep its mitts off it, it bodes very well for the future of American manned space travel.

Domingo Carreira

We all know that the reason of the Apollo program was to "beat the Soviets" and show which system was "better". We also know a lot technology, especially commercially viable one, resulted from the Apollo program.

The lesson from Apollo (or any other project) is psychological and is this: the lack of reason to do something, or the lack of apparent commercial benefit, should not be deterrent to do what was already fired by the imagination. We know from experience that later on there will be benefits, including commercial benefits. The Constellation project should not be cancelled.

There are always delays and setbacks because humans learn from mistakes and setbacks. We should move forward with Constellation. As the Zen saying goes: move and the Way opens.

Rick Badman

For nearly half a century we have had the promise of more powerful and faster propulsion systems and have seen what amounts to the Model T becoming the Model A with Mustangs always over the horizon. If NASA isn't going to develop such things as my Ground/Ship Launch/Propulsion System which is a nearly 40 year-old idea or Repulsion-Drive Systems that use my injection reactor, let private companies perfect them. I've been promoting my hypersonic spaceplane idea for nearly 20 years and we seem no closer to having it than we did the first day I showed a NASA facility my drawings in 1991. Since the plane will allow passengers to fly to the moon in a matter of hours and not days, maybe Virgin Galactic should build the plane and fly passengers to the moon for less than $100,000 a passenger. The company would probably make a profit and promote space tourism. My GSLP system would allow companies to have space stations and send material into space for less than 10% of the price NASA spends now. One metalic asteroid in orbit that is processed could be worth more than what NASA has been given in the last half century.

Campbell

One of the bigger problems NASA has faced the past twenty years is delays and the lack of will of past administrations to promote and fund the vision of space travel and exploration. We let the shuttle drag on for to long and wasting money on the international space station.

Completing Ares 1 and a command module should be a priority. The United States needs a reliable service vehicle to replace the shuttle as soon as possible while we continue to do research on new propulsion systems. Spending 9 billion to develop the program and then turn around and blow 2.5 billion to kill it is irresponsible, but that's Obama's style.

This is not about a space race. That "race" has been over for decades. Obama does not want manned space travel because that would create jobs, new technologies and advances in science in the private sector for America. Obama does not want to create advanced and efficient space travel, human or otherwise. His administration told the state controlled media that NASA's plan to "colonize" the moon was shelved. There was never a plan to colonize the moon.

A moon base was to be developed because it is far easier to launch from the moon to other parts of the solar system and beyond then from earth requiring the development and use of new propulsion systems. The whole point of the program was to create a self sustaining base to launch vehicles and for scientific research.

Space exploration is about human exploration and discovery of the unknown. Obama continues to convince the American people everyday that he fears that unknown and the evolution of the human species. If he can't control or suppress it, he wants no part of it and will leave everyone hanging in the end.

Obama will spend billions on a climate hoax, a speedy train to nowhere or on "green energy gimmicks" (wind power) but nothing that would advance human kind and science that would sustain our economy for generations. Personally I think NASA should complete Ares 1 and Ares V and put a docking station in permanent Lunar orbit within 5 years and begin to test advanced propulsion systems. That's right, 5 years not ten. We need to stop dragging our feet people.

Martin

Biased article there. And pathetic. We get it, you don't like George W Bush. Who does? Still, the wars that are being funded right now are killing a hell of a lot more people than the 14 that have died at NASA.

I hate you all.

DaveG

So, why in the world would any "commercial company" want to embark on a multi-billion dollar venture with the government, when in fact they know that the current administration didn't bat an eye at throwing away over 11 BILLION dollars to scrap constellation? Listen to the experts who testified before congress last year. And if NASA is involved, don't plan on any "savings" in the near future.

Jim Spellman

Back@Paul Thornton: I can't help noticing you respond like a politician when you're called out. You offer up just a smidgen to appear you've grasped the subject at hand while ignoring the other points being raised.

I'll remain a cautious skeptic towards private spaceflight working out since some of the "Primes" like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are in the mix as they've always been in the past (the real problem has been with NASA having to go along with "Cost plus" price structuring).

However, I'll reiterate that Earth science as a "crucial mission" of NASA is best left served to NOAA -- which already has a space research division and partnership with NASA and USAF.

This is the same issue that tripped you up in a previous Opinion piece over a year ago that I called you on. You'd think you'd learn from your earlier mistakes.

JimDoog

The reason for manned exploration is that it is in human nature to explore in a hands on way. We cannot stand back and send robots and probes alone. Firstly, as we've seen, that does not inspire and has made space mundane (think if Columbus could and did send a robot with a camera to the Americas). Secondly, we actually have to go there because it's in our nature.

It's also frankly idiotic to let business take over the sector. Can business enter space travel? Of course, and it's a good outlet to ensure future interest in space. But alongside government, not in lieu of it.

Constellation, or whatever other thing may have superseded it, would also have provided jobs to parts manufacturers and in varied districts, and could once again have inspired people about space flight and emphasize science and learning (which the Space Shuttle -AKA, the directionless pit we threw money in- was unable to do).

Many may nay say Constellation as "living in the past", but the fact is we need to go back to the past to get back on track.
In the age of Apollo, we were to set our sights on Moon bases, space stations galore, utilizing Lunar resources, manned flybys of Mars and Venus, and an eventual manned landing on Mars, with manned exploration of the solar system beyond probably hastened by that progress elsewhere.
In the age of the Shuttle, we were to set our sights on low earth orbit without anything else possible.

An engineering student

The purpose of NASA is to set and achieve goals that most think are impossible and in the process bring national pride, make great discoveries and inspire new generations of scientist and engineers that will collectively make this world a better place. Being afraid of change and doing the same thing for 40 years doesnt inspire anyone.

Nicholas Meyler

I personally find President Obama's suggestions on this topic to be highly arbitrary and autocratic. Slashing the NASA budget for "Constellation" strikes me as an act of cowardice -- failure-prone, and without merit.

The "Constellation" program was created to provide a basis for an eventual manned Mars Mission... Humans must continue to strive for greater heights in their achievements, or else they will become like H.G. Wells' "eloi" (from "The Time Machine"), people without culture, wisdom, achievements or goals, who willingly submit to the depradations of the cannibalistic "moorlocks" (apelike creatures who live under-ground).

H.G. Wells was an ardent Socialist, and yet his writing appears to completely condemn the "anti-achievement" acts and philosophy of Barack Obama, with respect to the Space Program. One can only wonder how far Left our current president is, based upon this proposal.

Not only will this terrible decision destroy the manned space-flight program, but it will also remove thousands of jobs employing highly-talented, highly-educated scientists, engineers, and technologists.

Eventually, when advanced technology moves into the hands of foreign individuals and corporations, National Security will inevitably be deeply compromised. What are the benefits of this proposal? Are there any?

Paul Dale

Obamas plan for Space is vague and unsound. How are private space companies going to do a better job than the Orion? We have been in Earth Orbit for 40 years and a company like SpaceX is not going to get us to the Moon or Mars. In fact this plan will leave us in Low Earth Orbit for another 40 years.
Private Space craft can only take us to the ISS and no further. An ARES V rocket is the only thing that can take any manned mission out into interplanetary Space.
Even now Russia is creating new space craft and for commercial reasons. They will launch our Astronauts into orbit for the next 6 years ( I believe it will be longer) as we have no real proof a private space company can build a man rated system in so shot of time. The purpose of space travel is SPACE TRAVEL! To go to distant worlds and do science. Robots are good but as the Mars rover team said (we have done much in 6 years BUT a person in a space suit could do the job of Opportunity and Spirit in 3 weeks)
In any case Obama will out source NASA'S man space flight to Russia after the Shuttle is retired. But without a replacement space craft in sight for six years, Russia might have a better chance in getting a better and cheaper space taxi built to compete with our nations private space services. After all, Russia has the safest space craft in use today and is the nation that lead the world in space science 1o years before Apollo. Why would it not try to compete with us again to beat companies in the U.S. that have NEVER sent a human into space before?

Mike

When the government competes with private sector there is no competition. Private companies have incentives, like profit and the Govt does not. The only incentives the Govt has had was to beat the Soviets in the cold war space race. We have all seen the advancements that took place during that time, including the Shuttle. Space tech has mostly stagnated since the end of the cold war. Most people want the Govt out of the private sector. I don't see a problem.

Kevin

Delta Clippper.. Gone. Venture Star.. Gone. Orion/Ares.. Gone. America's hopes and dreams for manned space flight.. yup.. pretty much Gone.

I'm sick of, not just the wasted money, but the wasted effort. You know? It's heart wrenching to have our decade-long goals torn asunder like this time and time again.

india white

NASA has never been more than an extension of the DoD, a civilian cover job for launching military satellites. The empire must have what it wants, even if it can no longer afford it.

Paul Dale

I have a link that shows Obama lying to NASA in 2008.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m1ctK3xRTQ
in this video Obama supports the Orion and makes a promise that he
will make sure America leads in Space.
Because of this NEW plan NASA is no longer a manned space exploration program.
NASA will have to use Russian space craft for 6 years to get to the ISS.
It is unlikely any private space launch services will ever work as well as the Shuttle or Orion. No American private space service has ever sent a human into Earth Orbit. NASA's plan for the private sector to build spacecraft to fly astronauts to the International Space Station is a high-risk undertaking that won't show results for years.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100204/sc_afp/usspaceeconomy

Vladislaw

"How are private space companies going to do a better job than the Orion?"

because they will not have a bloated system and infrastructure to deal with. NASA makes spaceflight a lot harder than it needs to. it costs 200mil a MONTH for the space shuttle whether it flys or not. No private company will have to deal with that kind of costs.

"In any case Obama will out source NASA'S man space flight to Russia after the Shuttle is retired."

In 2004, when President Bush gave the Vision for space exploration, it called for the space shuttle to be retired, in 2010, and a new crew exploration vehicle be built and be operational by 2014. The "GAP" was created right there and outsourcing to russia started. The billion dollar contract to russia were already in place buying seats on the soyuz before Obama took office.

President Bush also ordered NASA to commercialize cargo and crew to the ISS so it would be online by 2012 , but giffen took the crew money and put it on constellation. We would not be in this mess if NASA would have followed their marching orders.

Have you ever actually read the Act of Congress, in 1958, that created NASA what it was chartered to do?

"(c) The Congress declares that the general welfare of the United States requires that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (as established by title II of this Act) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space."

There has been more acts passed in 1972, 1998, 2004, and 2008 calling for NASA to move to more commercial use but they constantly pull the "safety" card to protect their monopoly on access to space for both the commercial and private citizens out of space.

Remember NASA actually builds, VERY little, it is all cost plus contracting by private firms. Are you actually going to try and argue, that boeing, who has been doing manned flight for over 40 years couldnt build a system? Are you trying to argue that your fellow americans and business owners are to stupid to build a rocket and capsule that even the russians and chinese, who are 10-30 years behind us, can build?

Paul Dale

To Vladislaw.
Yes. I am.
The reasons are many as even NASA has a hard time fielding a new space craft.
No private space ship that can reach earth orbit exists on this planet.
Russia is closer to such a commercial system than we would like to believe and our dependence on their services will not end even if we do get a private Space craft built. If the private sector is already building space craft for NASA then why change to RENTING? I have worked at NASA and I know that building space craft is not easy. The money and commercial need for many space business to exist all at the same time is not economically useful. Mostly because other nations that have government run MANNED space programs will out do us. NASA is not likely to use a private space craft if it is not safe. Russia has the best record on that issue by far.
I never said it was Obam's idea to use Russian space craft. I was just pointing out we will most likely have to use them longer than we think. The real issue here is TIME. Given 15 years and a LOT OF MONEY a private company could build a space craft to Mars. 6 years is NOT enough time for a new space craft to be constructed by people that have not done it before without NASA money. ORION could go beyond Earth orbit and return. Space X cannot do that and has not even made an Earth orbit space ship.
NASA is about science and after 35 plus years our government never let them build a replacement that could do more than orbit the Earth. The Constellation was the best plan to this date and worth the money for the return. Its about SPACE TRAVEL to other planets and that is a task no president has ever let NASA do.

Greg

I for one am appalled at Obama's decision. Indeed, after healthcare and his failure to do anything at all about wall street, and in general as Paul Krugman said his tendency to "go for the capillaries" I was disillusioned. Now I flat out am against the President.

Private spacetravel is all well and good, and certainly I have no problem incentivizing it. But, going to the moon is the first step to Mars, which is the next step in human exploration. For the US to abandon its leadership into space, to allow another country to return to the moon before us and eventually reach mars before us would be an unrecoverable blow to American prestige. More importantly it would signal the end of american preeminence in the world.

Furthermore, there are many jobs involved, high tech, jobs to be precise. More importantly than that however is the R&D dividend. Every prior great enterprise by NASA resulted in tremendous technological benefits for the American economy, for American Industry, for the US Government, and really for all Americans, and all people. I'd much rather the patents for whatever new tech must be developed to return to the moon in a more permanent way than our essentially "day trips" during Apollo be held by US companies where american workers and investors and the US government would benefit.

In general the cutting of Constellation is a symptom of the larger problem of the Obama presidency, and indeed of American politics since 1980, we are plagued with a remarkable shortsightedness by our leadership. Nowhere do we see real planning for the medium to long term future, nowhere are our leaders seeking to take the lead and reap the dividends later. A society which cannot see and plan ahead further than the next election cycle is doomed.

Not to mention this means I won't get to have my ashes scattered on the moon unless I become really cozy with the Chinese or Indian governments.

Greg

Just to respond to one prior comment, Nicholas Meyer, Obama's problem is not that he is too far left, it is that he is not far enough. He is at most a centrist, and really by pre-1980 US political standards or by the standards of the rest of the industrialized world he is right-of-center.

Remember it was Kennedy and Johnson who put us on the moon in the first place, Eisenhower began it and while he was a Republican, by today's standards his policies were, at least domestically, not exactly "conservative" fare. Indeed, by the standards of the day they weren't either.

A large government program, providing jobs and advancing the general welfare through technological and economic development and through seeking to increase our international "soft power" by leading the human race in achievement, seeking to inspire hope and challenge the next generation to strive for even greater heights? These are all classic Liberal ideals. Kennedy's New Frontiers speech captures it perfectly.

Mark

What constitutes a 'commercial' company. The Space Shuttle was built by lots of 'commercial' companies. We talk a lot about all these fledgling commercial rocket companies, but when they're all taking money from NASA to develop their earth-to-ISS rockets - what's the difference between them and the commercial companies that built the Space Station. Is it the lack of NASA oversight or configuration management control? Will they absorb any and all cost overruns without passing those on to NASA? Will they guarantee a fixed price per launch? Will they be legally and financially responsible for any launch incident or failure to deliver supplies to the ISS? If the answer to any of these questions is 'no', then I maintain they're not any different than the current commercial companies putting up the Space Shuttle. And, if they're not any different, why do we expect a different result. And, if there's 6 or 7 of them, why wouldn't we expect the majority of them to overrun their budgets and be behind on their schedule - and the end, cost NASA a lot more than the current Constellation project is costing?

Nicholas

my dad works for NASA and is designing the new orion vehicle. i don't want to have to move during my senior year in highschool. can president obama give my dad a new job or at least not take his current one away?

Brian D.

Monitoring carbon dioxide from space? Have you lost your mind? Human-caused global warming is a myth, yet you want to kill the space program in favor of chasing the global warming boogeymen? People like you don't deserve column inches. Instead, you ought to go back to school and learn what the space program has done for science and technology. And quit drinking the AGW Kool-Aid. It is a myth.

G-man

Constellation was an imperfect architecture. It was a dead end. We would have a second money-gobbling ISS, this time on the Moon, and we would be no closer to cheaper space-flight and exploring other destinations like asteroids and Mars. In this respect, I would be glad to see Constellation go.

This is a dangerous time for America's space program. It may mark the beginning of the end of America's dominance in space technology if Obama does not quickly act to replace Constellation with a strong, well-thought-out replacement architecture.


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