Chicago (IL) - The Obama administration has ordered a comprehensive review of NASA's manned space program.
"The review of United States Human Space Flight Plans will examine NASA development programs and possible alternatives. The goal is to provide options that will ensure the nation's human spaceflight program remains safe, innovative and affordable in the years following the space shuttle's retirement," NASA explained in a statement. "The review team will work closely with NASA and seek input from the Congress, the White House, the public, industry and international partners as it develops these options."
According to White House science adviser John Holdren, an external panel will be granted 90 days to examine future shuttle designs and propose improvements or alternatives. The panel will also consider extending NASA's use of the international space station beyond 2016.
Acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese expressed his support for the review.
"The thousands of workers who have given so much over the years to bring human spaceflight to where it is today deserve nothing less than a full assurance their commitment will be applied in the smartest and most practical ways," said Scolese.
Work on NASA's Constellation project is expected to continue during the review. A number of agency scientists are currently working to develop the manned Orion capsule, Altair Lunar Lander and two Ares rockets. The Ares I will be capable of carrying Orion to the moon or space station, while the unmanned Ares rocket would be used to launch heavy equipment into space.
It should be noted that NASA has requested an $18.7 billion budget for 2010. The funds will reportedly be used to "advance Earth science, complete the International Space Station, explore the solar system and conduct aeronautics research."