NASA 2011 budget is out, and with it the new 5 year plan.
It is drastic, bit more so than I expected.
Short version: Constellation is dead, Dead, DEAD!
Ares I, Ares V and Orion are shut down. ~ $10 billion thrown away, again, with nothing to show for it, again.
I’ll backfill the details and provide links later:
basically NASA will fund a serious launcher technology development program for future heavy launch, but for now they are taking the Space Cadets up on their offer – human and cargo LEO launch services will be bid out, with first bids already out – so if the technology is really mature to the point where Cheap Off The Shelf tech can build launchers who can get people to Low Earth Orbitm well the someone will make a billion or few in the next decade doing it.
Or NASA will pay Russia more for some spam-in-a-can delivery services using ’60s tech.
Couple of $billion just to pay off Constellation contracts and ramp down, fast.
International Space Station will be kept going at steady ~ $ 3 billion per year for this decade.
Aerospace gets a modest boost – fuel efficient and quiet engines and planes as emphasis is what it sounds like.
Earth Science gets a hefty boots, Solar Physics holds steady, Planetary Science grows.
Astrophysics, not so much. 10% cut up front (JWST ramp down) and then no ramp up, budget in ’15 projected lower than in ’10.
So nothing new, just limping along hoping nothing breaks and shaving costs everywhere to cope with inflation adjustments and surprises.
Big talk about Education and EPO, but no new money.
Don’t get me started on the “Summer of Innovation” – actually I will get started on that, but not here and now.
Ok, with the Shuttle shutting down something had to be done.
Constellation was a disaster, and there never was, and still isn’t, enough money to both keep things running and fix things at the same time.
So, stand down it is – throw $8 billion to the Libertarian Entrepreneurs in Spaaace faction, because it is cheaper than Constellation, and might actually work, which would be good.
But, it is risky. It will likely mean no manned presence in space for several years, except for hitchiking with the Russians. (NB sustaining manned presence in space is a mandate of NASA).
It could mean permanent (ie our lifetime) end of human US spaceflight, or a brief hitch before a glorious renaissance in spaceflight.
Or something completely different.
Science is disappointing: Astrophysics is really being hammered, and I do not get a good sense for why, beyond the “well you got JWST and now you must suffer for a decade, as Planetary Science did in the ’70s”.
Better find life on Mars, or Europa, or somewhere after all this.