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2/1/2010
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Obama Budget Kills Moon Missions

The President's $3.8 trillion budget request does not include funds for the Ares and Orion space vehicles.

President Obama's proposed federal budget strips funding for a return to the moon by NASA astronauts, according to administration officials.

Resuming trips to the moon, which astronauts have not visited since Apollo 17's trip there in 1972, was a key part of former president George W. Bush's plan for increased space exploration. Obama's budget request—expected to be formally unveiled Monday—effectively kills the program.

The budget, according to an official who briefed the Washington Post, removes funding for the Constellation program, the aim of which was to return humans to the lunar surface by 2020. Under the program, NASA astronauts would have traveled to the moon in the Orion command module, powered by the Ares rocket.

Ares and Orion will now be shelved, along with the Constellation program, if Congress accepts the President's $3.8 trillion budget request.

Instead of manned moon missions, the President instead wants NASA to focus on sending crews into near-earth orbit to continue work on the International Space Station and other, related projects. Obama's plan calls for the space agency to outsource launches to private, commercial space contractors to save money.

It's not certain the President, weakened politically by Massachusetts' election of Republican Scott Brown to fill the Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy, will get his way.

Constellation was expected to create thousands of jobs in various parts of the country, and Congressional reps in states affected by the cuts are sure to fight hard to keep the plan intact. To boot, NASA has already invested billions of dollars into Constellation, money that will have been wasted if the program is killed.

Adding to the political stakes is a national unemployment rate hovering around 10%. NASA officials plan to hold a press conference Monday morning to address how Obama's budget would impact the space program.

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