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NASA gets $5.9 billion more, but must scratch moon plan

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is essentially grounding efforts to return astronauts to the moon and instead is sending NASA in new directions with roughly $6 billion more.

The Associated Press, citing an anonymous White House official, reported Thursday that when next week's budget is proposed, NASA will get an additional $5.9 billion over five years. Some of that money would extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020. It also would be used to entice companies to build private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station after the space shuttle retires.

The money in the president's budget is not enough to follow through with NASA's Constellation moon landing plan initiated by President George W. Bush. The Associated Press, citing an aide to an elected official who was told of Obama's plans, but who asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the discussions, reported Obama is effectively ending the return-to-the-moon effort, something that has already cost $9.1 billion.

Gov. Charlie Crist mentioned the reported cuts to NASA in a letter he handed to Obama when the two met Thursday at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

The letter read, "Another issue important to Florida is our leadership in our nation's space program. NASA is critical to the economic vitality of the Space Coast and the thousands of jobs on the Cape and within the surrounding communities. I am concerned about reports that the administration is considering elimination of the Constellation Program, lunar landers and moon bases. The retirement of the shuttle fleet and the transition period is causing concern among employees and families along Florida's storied Space Coast. I urge you to fully fund NASA programs, including the Constellation Program, and keep our national commitment to advancing human space flight."

Obama is scheduled to release his 2011 budget proposal on Monday.

Times staff contributed to this report.

NASA gets $5.9 billion more, but must scratch moon plan 01/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 28, 2010 9:46pm]
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