U.S. budget constraints threaten to ground some of NASA's manned space missions. Judy Woodruff looks at the space program and its future prospects.
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Next tonight, sobering words about the American space program and its prospects. Judy Woodruff has our Science Unit story.
It's been more than three decades since an American touched down on the moon. In 2004, President George W. Bush proposed going back there, by the year 2020, and eventually to aim for Mars. That plan called for replacing the shuttle fleet with new kinds of space vehicles.
But the idea of returning to the moon ran into considerable skepticism, both on its merits and over questions of additional funding for NASA. This spring, President Obama commissioned a panel to study the pros and cons of returning humans to space.
But during recent public meetings, several panel members questioned whether there's even enough money to fund the current program. Earlier today, the panel presented its findings to White House and NASA officials in Washington.
It concluded that human missions to the moon by 2020 may be unrealistic, but there were options the panel considered workable, including going ahead with NASA's next generation of vehicles for human space flight, a rocket program that could go to the moon eventually and elsewhere, extending the life of the International Space Station until 2020, using commercial rockets to get there, and continuing to fly the shuttle until as late as 2015, while working on a new design that could reach the moon.
I talked with the panel's chairman, Norm Augustine, at his offices in Rockville, Maryland. He's the former CEO of Lockheed Martin.
Norm Augustine, thank you very much for talking with us.
NORM AUGUSTINE, chair, U.S. space flight review committee: It's nice to be here.
You are just back from the White House. You made this presentation. What was the reaction?