President Barack Obama is expected to deliver his budget request for fiscal year 2011 on February 1, but to hear many commentators tell it, the sky has already fallen on NASA.
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On Wednesday the Orlando Sentinel reported that Obama's budget would essentially scrap the Constellation program, NASA's current plan to develop a successor to the space shuttle. The shuttle, which has just five remaining scheduled launches, will be retired this year or in 2011, and without Constellation on the horizon, the future of U.S. manned spaceflight is unclear but would likely require commercial providers to boost astronauts into orbit.
In a statement Thursday, former NASA administrator and die-hard Constellation champion Michael Griffin said that the rumored changes, if true, indicate that Obama "has chosen to recommend that the nation abandon its leadership on the space frontier," a decision that Griffin called "even worse" than President Nixon's termination of the Apollo program. Carolyn Porco, who leads the imaging team for the Cassini spacecraft, lamented the news on Twitter: "Looks like we're gonna pull out of the race."
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