What's NASA's financial future?

August 15, 2009 7:05:33 AM PDT
What's on the horizon for NASA's financial future? Presidential advisers say President Barack Obama's budget won't cover NASA's goals of returning to the moon. [FULL COVERAGE: NASA and space shuttle coverage]
[WATCH: ABC13's 'Moon, Mars and Beyond' primetime special]

As NASA employees and visitors got first glimpses of the Orion capsule here for testing, those working on next generation vehicles at JSC express concern about a presidentially-appointed review panel, which said this week that NASA currently is not budgeted enough funding to return to the moon or to land man on mars.

"It's terrible for all the people working there," said Johnson Space Center employee Evan Twiford. "People that work at NASA are so excited about projects they're working on and very passionate about space flight in general."

Twiford worked some on Orion and the next generation lunar rover and says anticipation of the panel's findings has many at JSC on edge, wondering how long they'll have jobs.

"I think there's definitely some concern amongst people there," he said.

Members of the panel were to meet today with White House officials. Some of those members consulted with Rice University's Baker Institute Space Policy Fellow George Abbey.

"I think it's gonna be difficult for NASA to get the additional funding they're gonna need to do all this," he said.

Abbey says he published a paper earlier this year, pointing out the economic limits of spaceflight under the current budget and his concerns over plans that, for example, only make a return to the moon possible if NASA crashes the space station back to earth in 2016, freeing up money otherwise spent on that program. He calls that shortsighted.

"The country's made a major investment on the space station," said Abbey. "And you want to get a return on that investment."

Some scientists, however, disagree, saying the station functionality is already obsolete, that money on science needs to be spent elsewhere. The Augustine panel's recommendation to the president is to be made public at the end of this month.

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