Just like that. Star-Trek dreamers, give it up. Mars-life explorers, forget it. We're not going.
As reported in Florida Today, NASA's acting associate administrator for space flight, Richard Wisniewski, had written in a January 9 memo that "I am directing the centers, effective immediately, to issue termination notices for all (programs) associated with beyond-Earth-orbit activities such as human lunar or Mars exploration."
Confirming a report that first surfaced in Aviation Week and Space Technology, NASA spokesman Michael Braukus said, "There is a budget funding problem. Mr. Wisniewski is making a business decision."
The move seemed strangely out of step with NASA's recent enthusiasm over possible signs of life on Mars, and called into question the relevance of the current Lunar Prospector mission, which had been described in part as a search for water ice on the moon for purposes of development by future manned expeditions.
Civilian advocates of aggressive space exploration were dismayed by the NASA announcement.
"It is a bad sign for those of us who want to see a serious endeavor to return to the Moon and send humans to Mars," said Pat Dasch, executive director of the National Space Society. "It means that studies will continue at a very low level but there are no dedicated funds and therefore no commitment."
But WAIT! Only one week after NASA's disappointing decision became public, NASA Chief Administrator Daniel Goldin offered what appears to be a reversal of that decision.
Florida Today's "Space Online" reported on January 30 that Florida Congressman Dave Weldon, a staunch supporter of human space exploration, "received assurances from NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin [on January 29] that earlier reports of ending funding for planning future manned missions to the Moon and Mars were inaccurate."
"Human exploration is the cornerstone of our space program," Weldon said. "We would have lost a big part of what NASA is about if those studies had been terminated."
Florida Today said that Weldon has led a bipartisan effort to stabilize NASA's budget for Fiscal Year 1999. His efforts, along with those of U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), have reportedly halted a major cut originally planned by the White House, although that will not be confirmed until the Administration's final FY 1999 budget proposal is released early next week. Weldon and Kucinich secured the signatures of more than 200 Members of Congress on a letter supporting increased funding for the space agency, and they later secured the support of House Speaker Newt Gingrich on a similar letter to President Clinton.
The difficult funding decisions come just as NASA is completing formal agreements with representatives of fifteen nations who are joining forces to build the International Space Station. The first part of the station, built by Russia, is scheduled for launch into earth orbit later this year.
Back to document index
Original file name: CNI - NASA.No Moon/Mars
This file was converted with TextToHTML - (c) Logic n.v.