9 September 2009
A White House panel of independent space experts has raised serious doubts about NASA's plan to revisit the Moon, or to send astronauts to Mars. It says the current annual budget of $18 bn is simply not enough to fund exploration beyond the Earth.
Click to hear the report:
Five years ago President Bush set out his lofty vision of sending astronauts back to the Moon by the year 2020. It was meant to be the staging post for the next frontier - a manned landing on Mars. Now a panel of space experts says that's pretty much pie in the sky.
Their report, commissioned by President Obama, says the current US human spaceflight programme appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It suggests the only way forward is to increase the funding of NASA by billions of dollars, or to co-operate with private companies now embarking on commercial space flights.
The panel says visits to Near-Earth Objects such as asteroids are far more realistic too. The experts also argue for keeping the International Space Station going till 2020, rather than pulling the plug in six years' time.
Jonathan Beale, BBC News, Washington
Click to hear the vocabulary:
- set out
displayed or showed plans for
- lofty vision
an ambitious plan
- staging post
a place where stops are made on long journeys (here, the Moon before travelling on to Mars)
- next frontier
a part of space which has not been previously explored
- a panel
a team of people (usually professionals or experts) who make decisions
- pie in the sky
an expression meaning that something which you hope will happen is, in fact, very unlikely
- on an unsustainable trajectory
on a path or following a plan which cannot be continued or completed
starting on something new
one of many rocky objects of various sizes which circle the sun
- pulling the plug
prevent from continuing