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The Obama administration has discovered that the cost to build the program-formerly-called-Constellation, required by Congress, is going to be far more than they can stomach.
White House budget officials increasingly are concerned that some of NASA’s manned-exploration plans may be unaffordable, especially as the space agency weighs options that would raise the cost by billions of dollars by speeding up the development of rockets and spacecraft, according to people familiar with the issue.
The cost concerns are coming to a head, these people said, as the White House Office of Management and Budget ratchets up questions about NASA’s proposed program in light of the current emphasis on deficit reduction.
None of this surprises me.
First, the exorbitant costs are par for the course. There is no way a Congressionally designed rocket can be built cheaply, especially by NASA with its high and fixed labor costs. Second, I expected from the beginning that the Obama administration would balk at building this, partly because of that cost but mostly because Obama never really wanted to build it in the first place. Since the moment he took office he has done everything he can to cancel the Bush space exploration effort.
Expect this heavy-lift rocket to be the first casualty of the new budget-cutting effort. And from my perspective, that will be a good thing, as any money spent for this monstrosity will be a waste. There will never be enough money to finish it.
Whether the commercial space subsidizes will survive as well is problematic, however. Unlike the program-formerly-called-Constellation, those subsidizes don’t yet have the constituencies in Congress to support them. In the present atmosphere of budget cuts, they might easily go away, especially since I think Obama doesn’t really care about them that much. I am glad his administration has been pushing the development of this private space industry, but I also suspect that the President really wouldn’t mind if the money was spent on something else, such as education, as he said during the early days of the 2008 campaign.