Wednesday, February 24, 2010

For NASA no easy reply for next space destination


For the record in decades, NASA has no particular space destination for its next stop, although it has lots of places it wants to go. Future space flight, NASA officials say, now depends on new rocket science and where it can acquire us.

That ambiguity may not sit well with Congress, which will be grilling NASA chief Charles Bolden on Wednesday and Thursday in the first hearings since the George W. Bush moon mission was shelved.

There are only little places in space where humans can go in the next couple of decades. NASA desires to go to all of them, with the ultimate destination, as always, being Mars.

The suite of destinations has not altered over time, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said in an interview. The moon, asteroids, Mars - if you're going to go anyplace - is where we are going.

But with any route there is a first stop, so what is that?

Check back in a pair of years. That's when new technology should be developed sufficient to answer that question, Garver said. President Barack Obama plans to divert billions of dollars from the Bush moon plan to developing better rocketry.

The best mode to get anywhere ... is in fact invest in technologies that will reduce the cost, reduce the time, reduce the risk and so forth, Garver said.

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