President Obama kills NASA’s moon mission plans

File photo by Neil A. Armstrong, AP
In this July 20, 1969 photo, astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., descends steps of Lunar Module ladder as he prepares to walk on the moon.

From staff and wire reports

WASHINGTON — President Obama is redirecting America’s space program, killing NASA‘s $100 billion plans to return astronauts to the moon and using much of that money for new rocket technology research.

The moon program, which has cost $9.1 billion so far, “was over budget, behind schedule and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies” according to the budget plan issued Monday.

Obama’s budget would increase fiscal year 2011 funds for NASA by 1.5% and support the development of rocket systems that eventually might take U.S. astronauts back into deep space. In preparation for those trips, Obama envisions using robotic ships to find locations for future landings and test new technology.

“Simply put, we’re putting the science back into the rocket science at NASA,” White House science adviser John Holdren said Monday.

Buzz Aldrin, an Apollo astronaut, strongly endorsed the budget. He said investing now in better technologies could accelerate goals such as sending people to Mars. “I applaud the president for working to make these dreams a reality,” Aldrin said.

The plan to drop the moon strategy already has drawn opposition from lawmakers such as Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who said they feared the changes could risk U.S. leadership in space. NASA spacecraft are launched from Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

The $4 billion that NASA spends yearly on human space exploration will now be used for what NASA and White House officials called dramatic changes in rocketry, including in-orbit fueling. They said eventually those new technologies would be used to send astronauts to a nearby asteroid, a brief foray back to the moon, or the Martian moons.

The White House plan was short on details,…

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