NASA Seeks Civilian Input on Space Direction
With a special panel reviewing the future of NASA's manned space flight
program, the space agency has established a Website for public input into the review ordered by President Obama
May 5. NASA said the site will facilitate comments, questions and suggestions
from the public during the 90-day review.
NASA's Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans is operating under Obama's direction to "conduct an independent review of ongoing U.S. human space flight plans and programs, as well as alternatives, to ensure the nation is pursuing the best trajectory for the future of human space flight-one that is safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable."
NASA has spent almost $6.9 billion on the plan to be back on the moon by 2020 to establish a lunar outpost for future space expeditions, and the agency continues to spend $300 million per month on the program. Former President George W. Bush introduced the moon program in the wake of the 2003 space shuttle Columbia accident.
Under the plan, NASA plans to retire the space shuttle program by the end of the year to focus on returning to the moon. A blue ribbon panel of experts will conduct the review, led by Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine. "I am a real believer in the value of this nation's human spaceflight activities and will do everything I can to provide the information needed to help maintain the spectacular arc of progress NASA has fueled for five decades," Augustine said in a statement.
The panel's first public meeting will be held June 17 in Washington, the same day NASA is launching two satellites to the moon in preparation for the next stage in the lunar plan. The LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) and the LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) will launch together aboard an Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The LRO will help identify safe landing sites for future human explorers, locate potential resources, characterize the radiation environment and test new technology. LCROSS will seek a definitive answer about the presence of water ice at the lunar poles.
"LRO is an amazingly sophisticated spacecraft," Craig Tooley, LRO project manager, said at a May briefing on the mission. "Its suite of instruments will work in concert to send us data in areas where we've been hungry for information for years."