Johnson Space Center February 8, 2010
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and JSC Director Mike Coats in a meeting. Both former astronauts were classmates at Annapolis over 40 years ago. The audience was full of questions and concern about NASA's new direction. One woman, a senior engineer with Orion, was in tears asking, "Did you fight for us?" With the end of the shuttle program, many were concerned about jobs and expertise that would be lost. Bolden tried to reassure everyone that human spaceflight would continue. He offered hints that some of the cancelled Constellation program would return. Bolden reminded us that if someone else reaches the Moon they will find American bootprints there. He promised that the ultimate goal is still Mars.
The new direction began with a new administration. As recounted here, the Augustine Commission decided that the Constellation program was unsustainable given current budgets. According to Augustine Ares I might fly around 2017, but at the cost of junking the International Space Station. The heavy-lift Ares V might be ready until sometime in the 2020's, but without a lunar lander. The Augustine Commission most favoured a "flexible path" of limited lunar missions and flights to asteroids and other destinations. The Obama administration has responded by cancelling all of Constellation. This is an exciting and changing time at NASA. Like the speed of light, the only constant is change.