derekmead (2466858) writes "When Obama took office the first time around, he cancelled the Bush-era Constellation project, but kept Orion, pairing it with the massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as the hardware for missions to the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and beyond. Right now, an unmanned Orion is set to launch on a Delta rocket in 2014, the first unmanned SLS-Orion combination sometimes in 2019, and the first manned mission in 2021. In the meantime, NASA will continue to lean on the growing commercial sector for launches to low Earth orbit.
NASA will likely stay on the same track it’s been on since President Obama first took office in 2008, but that doesn’t mean we’ll get the manned mission to the Moon and Mars we’ve been promised. So NASA, it seems, is still focused on getting men back to the Moon, but will likely take a shot at landing on the Moon's far side, assuming the long-range plans don't get axed in the current, and likely ongoing, budget fight.
The root of NASA’s problems with unrealized goals comes from the regular rotation in the White House. Obama’s second term will end in 2016, which means SLS will still be three years from flying when someone new takes over the Oval Office. A lot has to happen before NASA can start building its new big rocket, and if we still don’t have flight hardware by 2016, there’s a chance we never will. Budget overruns and slipping schedules (both of which we’ve already seen with SLS) will only compound the problem."
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