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Reports: NASA, White House planning major changes to exploration strategy
Posted: Fri, Dec 18, 2009, 7:57 AM ET (1257 GMT)
Ares launch vehicles (NASA) The White House and NASA are considering making major changes to the agency's current space exploration strategy that could see the cancellation of the Ares 1 and Ares 5 launch vehicles. While there has been no formal announcement, reports by the Orlando Sentinel, Space News, and Science indicate that the White House is considering adding $1 billion to NASA's fiscal year 2011 budget proposal, scheduled for release early next year. That money may be used to help make a shift to an alternative exploration strategy modeled after the "Flexible Path" option in the Augustine Committee report, which delays a human lunar landing in favor of missions to near Earth objects and Lagrange points. Under such an approach the Ares 1 launcher under development for launching crews would be cancelled and commercial options pursued in its place. The Ares 5 heavy-lift launcher would also likely be cancelled in favor of a "simpler" vehicle derived from the Ares 5, shuttle, or EELVs. A formal announcement could come as soon as next week, according to Science, but could also be delayed until the budget's release in early February or the State of the Union address in late January.
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