Homepage > News > World > 

Obama outlines new U.S. space exploration plan

2010-04-16 07:36 BJT

WASHINGTON, April 15 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday outlined his administration's new space exploration plan, vowing to increase NASA's budget by six billion dollars over the next five years.

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a speech on Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, outlining his new space exploration plan. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
U.S. President Barack Obama makes a speech on Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center
in Florida, outlining his new space exploration plan. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where America' s moon missions originated decades ago, Obama said he was "100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future."  

In his speech, Obama announced that he wants to accelerate the development of a large, heavy-lift rocket to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. He called for a decision on the new rocket design in 2015. The rocket could be geared to launching new spacecraft and payloads for ambitious expeditions to a nearby asteroid and stable points in space called Lagrange points in preparation for a manned spaceflight to Mars.

Obama said that by 2025 he expects U.S. space exploration to reach beyond the moon and farther into the solar system's reaches, adding that he is aiming to send U.S. astronauts into Mars orbit by the mid-2030s.

"So, we'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to earth, and a landing on Mars will follow," Obama told a crowd of about 200 space experts, scientists and members of Congress.

Obama's plan includes resurrecting a pared down version of the capsule-based Orion spacecraft initially slated to be scrapped under the president's cancellation of the Constellation program in February.

The new version of the Orion spacecraft would be launched unmanned to the International Space Station to serve as an escape ship for American astronauts, giving NASA more flexibility from its reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, White House officials said.

The president was making a trip to the heart of the U.S. space industry, seeking to explain why he aborted former president George W. Bush's return-to-the moon plan.

Obama has faced sharp criticism for proposing to abandon the Constellation moon program after nine billion dollars has been spent, and to allocate six billion dollars to support private companies in developing space rockets to carry astronauts to the International Space Station.