Former Lockheed Martin President and CEO Norm Augustine will head the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee, convened by the White House to review NASA’s human space program for the Moon, Mars, and beyond. NASA plans to retire its Space Shuttle fleet after seven more missions to complete the $100 billion International Space Station next year, and it plans to develop new vehicles that can travel to the space station as well as to the moon and other destinations in the solar system.
Funding for the program to send the first man to the Moon since the Apollo missions has been scaled back to $81.5 billion from $108 billion between 2010 and 2020. Members of the panel said last week that given current budget forecasts, a moon landing would not occur until the mid 2020s at the earliest. The panel, scheduled to make its report by August 31, is also considering extending the life of the space station beyond its projected shut-down date of 2015.
In addition to scientific uses, having a station in orbit will serve as a platform to stimulate commercial space development, said board member Jeff Greason, co-founder and CEO of XCOR Aerospace.
NASA plans to hold a workshop in Houston on Thursday for companies interested in partnering to develop commercial passenger service to space, and plans to use $50 million of federal economic stimulus funds to seed development of commercial passenger transportation service to space. Potential spaceflight contractors will have 45 days to submit proposals, which will be competitively evaluated. Awards for the Commercial Crew Development Program should be announced by the end of September.
SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk told Reuters “It’s a little disappointing that (the new program) is only $50 million. “Fifty million is what it costs for one seat on the (Russian) Soyuz.” Between 2010 and the next-generation NASA vehicle’s introduction, the US will buy rides for its astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS.
NASA will spend an additional $500 million to help two U.S. firms, Space Exploration Technologies, a privately held company known as SpaceX, and Orbital Sciences Corp, develop rockets and capsules to deliver cargo to the station. SpaceX’s contract will include an option to upgrade its Dragon cargo vehicle for passenger service. The company has said it needs $300 million, most of which would be used to develop a launch escape system for the crew.