OBAMA on SPACE Exploration in the 21st Century

NASA's 2012 Budget Proposal Released, Could Affect LANL Projects

President Barack Obama proposed restricting expenses at NASA, sending a 2012 budget outline to Congress in mid-February that requests a five-year freeze on spending levels—$18.7 billion annually through fiscal 2016. Los Alamos National Laboratory hosts many NASA-sponsored space projects.

NASA said the budget supports all elements of NASA's 2010 Authorization Act, which was passed by a strong bipartisan majority of Congress and signed into law by President Obama. The President's fiscal year 2011 budget proposed increasing NASA's budget by $6 billion throughout the next five years. The 2012 NASA budget includes $4.3 billion for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs, $5 billion for science, $3.9 billion for future exploration systems and $569 million for aeronautics research.

"This budget requires us to live within our means so we can invest in our future," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told news conference attendees.

The new budget announcement comes just as NASA's space shuttle fleet is scheduled to be retired early this spring.

Last year, President Barack Obama relayed his plans for space exploration during a speech at Florida's John F. Kennedy Space Center. President Obama committed NASA to a series of development milestones he said would lead to new spacecraft for astronauts to ride to the International Space Station, a modified Orion capsule developed as an emergency return spacecraft, and a powerful new rocket. There will be no funding for NASA's planned missions to the moon called the Constellation Program.

Following are excerpts from the President's 2010 speech.

So let me start by being extremely clear: I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future....We will ramp up robotic exploration of the solar system, including a probe of the Sun's atmosphere; new scouting missions to Mars and other destinations; and an advanced telescope to follow Hubble, allowing us to peer deeper into the universe than ever before….We will increase Earth-based observation to improve our understanding of our climate and our world….And we will extend the life of the International Space Station likely by more than five years.

Next, we will invest more than $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced "heavy lift rocket"—a vehicle to efficiently send into orbit the crew capsules, propulsion systems, and large quantities of supplies needed to reach deep space. In developing this new vehicle, we will not only look at revising or modifying older models; we want to look at new designs, new materials, new technologies that will transform not just where we can go but what we can do when we get there. And we will finalize a rocket design no later than 2015 and then begin to build it.

At the same time, after decades of neglect, we will increase investment—right away—in other groundbreaking technologies that will allow astronauts to reach space sooner and more often, to travel farther and faster for less cost, and to live and work in space for longer periods of time more safely. That means tackling major scientific and technological challenges. How do we shield astronauts from radiation on longer missions? How do we harness resources on distant worlds? How do we supply spacecraft with energy needed for these far-reaching journeys? These are questions that we can answer and will answer….Early in the next decade, a set of crewed flights will test and prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit. And by 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space. So we'll start—we'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it.

Critical to deep space exploration will be the development of breakthrough propulsion systems and other advanced technologies….We will partner with industry. We will invest in cutting-edge research and technology. We will set far-reaching milestones and provide the resources to reach those milestones....For pennies on the dollar, the space program has improved our lives, advanced our society, strengthened our economy, and inspired generations of Americans. And I have no doubt that NASA can continue to fulfill this role.

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