Obama Chooses New Heavy Lift Vehicle, Jettisons Ares I

Ares I-X lifts off from the Cape - possibly the one and only launch of the program.
Ares I-X lifts off from the Cape - possibly the one and only launch of the program.

Exclusive:Obama Backs New Launcher and Bigger NASA Budget

President Barack Obama will  ask Congress next year to fund a new heavy-lift launcher to take humans to the Moon, asteroids, and the moons of Mars, ScienceInsider has learned. The president chose  the new direction for the U.S. human space flight program Wednesday at a White House meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, according to officials familiar with the discussion. NASA would receive an additional $1 billion in 2011 both to get the new launcher on track and to bolster the agency’s fleet of robotic Earth-monitoring spacecraft.

According to knowledgeable sources, the White House is convinced that scarce NASA funds would be better spent on a simpler heavy-lift vehicle that could be ready to fly as early as 2018. Meanwhile, European countries, Japan, and Canada would be asked to work on a lunar lander and modules for a moon base, saving the U.S. several billion dollars. And commercial companies would take over the job of getting supplies to the international space station.

The new program would jettison Ares 1. To appease congressional critics like [Sen. Richard] Shelby, the Administration hopes to ensure that research and development work on the new rocket would proceed without significant job losses at NASA centers like Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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