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White House launches independent review of NASA's space programme news
08 May 2009

The White House has launched an independent outside review of NASA's manned space programme, which may jeopardize the space agency's plan of sending astronauts back to the moon and other key projects.

The US President Barack Obama's administration, has called for an independent review of NASA's human spaceflight activities.

The independent outside review will examine NASA development programmes and possible alternatives. The aim of the review is to provide options for safe, innovative and affordable spaceflight programs in the coming years following the space shuttle's retirement.

Norman Augustine, a former aerospace industry executive, who served on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology will lead the review while Michael Hawes, the associate administrator of NASA's Office of Programme Analysis and Evaluation in Washington, will serve as the lead of the NASA team supporting the review.

The announcement of the review by the White House came just after NASA unveiled its request for $18.69 billion budget for fiscal year 2010.

The budget request represents an increase of $903.6 million, or 5 per cent increase from the funds provided in the fiscal year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act.

NASA said, ''All totalled, an additional $2 billion has been added to NASA's 2009 and 2010 budgets under the Obama administration.''

Former US President George Bush had unveiled a plan to send astronauts back to the moon after the 2003 space shuttle Columbia accident and NASA has already spent nearly $7 billion on preparing for this mission.

NASA is currently working on the ARES project, where the space agency is building a small ARES rocket designed to take astronauts in an Orion capsule to the moon or the space station and another big ARES unmanned rocket to carry equipment into space.

The space agency is also simultaneously working on setting up a lunar outpost with the aid of robots instead of humans by 2020.
The plan is to have robots and the rover vehicle in Mars before astronauts reach Mars.

Under the review announced yesterday, these two projects could now be in jeopardy as the Congressional Budget Office report released last month, said that in order to keep the ARES project along with 79 other advanced science missions going, NASA would require at least $4 billion more a year, which works out to a budget of around $23 billion.

But NASA does not have a full time administrator to pull strings at the White House as the last administrator Dr. Michael Griffin, resigned in January and the post is not likely to be filled soon.

Acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese said "The thousands of workers who have given so much over the years to bring human spaceflight to where it is today deserve nothing less than a full assurance their commitment will be applied in the smartest and most practical ways.

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White House launches independent review of NASA's space programme