NASA announces new approach to exploration

HOUSTON Administrator Bolden says the biggest bonus of the Obama plan for NASA is by far the development of commercial crew transportation providers. It is a plan he says was long overdue.

"This plan gives us a road map to even more historic achievements," said Bolden Tuesday.

Bolden says the Obama administration's plan for the agency is the best use of its $6 billion in new funding over the next five years.

"We want robust backup capability in human space flight and we want it to be made in America," he said.

Bolden especially praised the plan to partner with a mix of outside suppliers, like Lockheed and Boeing, to build the vessels that will replace the retiring space shuttle.

"We may soon have the prospect of multiple providers of space transportation," said Bolden. "This would ensure that we have safe, reliable redundant domestic capability. We do not have this today, which is the crux of our dependence on our Russian partners and the Soyuz space craft and the reason we will have a gap in domestic human spaceflight capability when the shuttle retires later this year."

Bolden acknowledged that this is likely to happen by 2016, leaving several years of dependence on Russia but he also said it will also create long-term jobs for Americans.

As for the cancellation of the Constellation program, Bolden says the shift in focus is necessary for NASA's long-term survival.

"We must invest in fundamentally new innovations for space technology and new ways of doing business if we are to develop a space exploration program that is truly sustainable over the long term," he said.

Even though Constellation's goal was to make long term stays on the moon possible, its elimination makes room in the budget to extend the international space station until 2020, and provides billions for better robotics.

"Our goal is to revitalize NASA," said Bolden.

Of course, this is not a done deal. The president's plan would need congressional approval, and there is already talk of a bipartisan effort to stop it. Opponents from Texas include Congressmen Gene Green, Pete Olson, Ted Poe and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, along with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. They have all said they will fight this plan tooth and nail.

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