From its inception a half-decade ago, NASA has been a can-do organization. Its many successes--most notably the Apollo moon missions--showed that the government-funded agency had, in the immortal words of journalist-novelist Tom Wolfe, the right stuff. In recent years, however, NASA's star has faded. On Monday, President Obama drove that latter point home with his $19 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2011, which among other things would put an end to the big-ticket Constellation program.
Even more significantly the budget proposal looks toward the burgeoning commercial spaceflight industry, with an emphasis on its entrepreneurial spirit and mounting activity, as well as a reduced burden to taxpayers. Not that there would be no taxpayer involvement: the government plans to direct $6 billion over the next five years toward developing commercial manned spaceflight capabilities
(Photo shows a Delta II rocket, suppled by the commercial United Launch Alliance, lifting off in December with NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite.
Photo by Bill Hartenstein, United Launch Alliance
Caption by Jonathan Skillings.
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