When the president releases his budget on Monday, a White House official confirmed on Thursday, there will be a big hole where funding for NASA's Constellation program used to be. Constellation is the umbrella program that includes the Ares rocket -- the replacement for the aging space shuttles.
NASA will receive an additional $5.9 billion over five years, some of which will be used to extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020. The official said it also will be used to entice companies to build private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station after the space shuttle retires.
The story was first reported in the Orlando Sentinel, which detailed that the forthcoming budget will include no funding for lunar landers, no moon bases, and no Constellation program at all. Instead, NASA will outsource space flight to other governments (such as the Russians) and private companies.
NASA's Constellation program aimed to create a new generation of spacecraft for human spaceflight, consisting primarily of the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles, the Orion crew capsule and the Altair Lunar Lander. These spacecraft would have been capable of performing a variety of missions, from International Space Station resupply to lunar landings.
But according to the Sentinel, White House insiders and agency officials say NASA will eventually look at developing a new "heavy-lift" rocket that one day will take humans and robots to explore beyond low Earth orbit years in the future -- and possibly even decades or more.
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