Troubled economy and government review question $100-billion shuttle replacement plan
With a $100-billion price tag, NASA's space shuttle replacement program, Constellation, aims to return astronauts to the Moon in 2020, followed by a Moon base and missions to Mars. An article in next week's June 22 Engineering News-Record (ENR), published by McGraw-Hill Construction and now online at ENR.com, reviews the impact of the economy on NASA's plans as well as the new facilities, systems and launch structures currently under development and under construction at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, and other sites throughout the U.S.
The Constellation program includes the development and production of the new Ares rocket system as well as the Altair lunar module and engineering and infrastructure components. Major changes to the launch pads, including demolition of old fixed structures and the construction of new ones, are the first steps currently underway at Cape Canaveral. Modifications to the Launch Control Center are in progress, and the Vehicle Assembly Building also will be modified for the program. Construction is expected to ramp up further in 2010-2011, and the first crew launch is scheduled for 2015, while the first Ares V equipment launch is planned by 2020. Other large facilities include the Ares I test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, currently under construction, and a 3-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Michoud Parish, LA, now in the early design stage. Collectively, these projects will infuse billions of dollars into the economically battered construction industry.
Despite these concrete plans, "NASA's history of poor fiscal and contract management is likely to come under committee review," says the article. Indeed, an independent financial review by Obama-appointee Norman Augustine could lead to budget shortfalls for NASA if alternatives to the Constellation program are recommended as the best trajectory for the future of human space flight.
The full article is available online at http://enr.ecnext.com/coms2/article_tect090617NASALaunchPa-1. For further commentary, contact ENR reporters Thomas F. Armistead at Tom_Armistead@mcgraw-hill.com and Steve Setzer at email@example.com.
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