A federal government committee assigned to independently review plans for manned spaceflights has released a summary of its first report. It is not encouraging.
The report makes it clear that NASA's current plans are unachievable.
The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee was established in May by the Obama administration to perform an "independent review of planned U.S. human space flight activities with the goal of ensuring that the nation is on a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space." Its summary report was released Tuesday. The full report is set for release later this month.
Here's the worst of it, all in one paragraph from page 10:
The Committee has found two executable options that comply with the FY 2010 budget. However, neither allows for a viable exploration program. In fact, the Committee finds that no plan compatible with the FY 2010 budget profile permits human exploration to continue in any meaningful way.
In short, the committee concluded that without additional money, Americans won't be going anywhere in space anytime soon. And even with another $3 billion per year, it'll be a long time before the U.S. can get back to the moon, never mind Mars.
It's commonly said that what took us about eight years to get done in the first place--starting from President Kennedy's famous statement to Congress in May 1961...
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.
...and ending with the successful return of Apollo 11 on July 24, 1969--couldn't be done again today because the U.S. lacks the will to commit comparable resources to the project.
But you know what? The Apollo program, start to finish, cost less than $150 billion in today's dollars (after accounting for inflation). NASA's budget request for 2010 (PDF) is well over $18 billion. And I just realized that eight years and two months of that spending adds up to just over $152 billion.