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CAGW Releases Issue Brief on NASA Constellation Program

Press Release From: Citizens Against Government Waste
Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2010

image Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released an Issue Brief on the Constellation program. The brief can be accessed here on the group's web site. The Constellation is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) program, initiated under President George W. Bush, with the goal of putting man back on the moon by 2020. The stated goals were to gain significant experience in operating away from Earth's environment, developing new technologies required for exploring the solar system and conducting fundamental science. But the program is the latest in a series of troubled post-Apollo human spaceflight programs within the U.S. space agency, plagued by slipping deadlines and ballooning costs.

"As romantic and inspirational as space flight is, the brutal reality is that the Constellation program has become a symbol of the 'old NASA,'" said CAGW President Tom Schatz. "The program is morphing into another ill-conceived government program suffering from all too familiar runaway costs. The nation cannot continue to sink unlimited dollars into this black hole."

In 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that the total budget required for implementing the Constellation Program (through initial lunar missions) was nearly $230 billion. In 2009, the GAO concluded that "while the agency has already obligated more than $10 billion in contracts, at this point NASA does not know how much Ares I and Orion will ultimately cost, and will not know until technical and design challenges have been addressed."

Constellation's weaknesses have been extensively documented by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the GAO, and the Review of Human Spaceflight Plans Committee led by former aerospace executive Norm Augustine. The CBO warned in April, 2009 that "if NASA's funding was increased to about $21.1 billion annually, the agency would be able to meet its planned schedules for the Constellation program even if cost growth was consistent with the average for past programs. But that amount of funding would not permit NASA to fly the space shuttle beyond 2010 or to support the space station beyond 2015. Moreover, under this budgetary scenario, 15 of the planned science missions would be delayed past 2025."

Efforts to terminate this enormously wasteful and ineffective program have encountered the usual congressional interference. Sens. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have attached a measure protecting funding for Constellation to an emergency war funding bill.

"President Obama has taken a step in the right direction by proposing to cancel the unsustainable Constellation Program in favor of looking to increased reliance on the private sector and investment in technologies that can lower the cost of human space exploration," concluded Schatz. "Congress should not interfere with this objective."

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

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