NASA chief Charles Bolden unveiled President Obama’s FY 2014 budget request for the space agency yesterday, which proposes $17.7 billion, a $50 million reduction over the previous year. Bolden said it took “tough choices” to decide what made it into the proposal. He said the FY 2014 budget will “ensure the US will remain the leader in space exploration and scientific discovery.” Bolden also reinforced NASA’s commitment to the manned-asteroid exploration project.
That plan, more than anything else on NASA’s plate, seems to have captured the imagination of the American public. In 2010, speaking at Kennedy Space Center, President Barack Obama pledged to commit to a manned-mission to an asteroid by 2025 as a prelude to a manned Mars flight.
“NASA has been trying to get astronauts to a near-earth asteroid by 2025 for a few years, so it just sort of made sense to bring the asteroid a little closer,” Mike Hall of Space.com told KTRH. “They want to send a robotic probe out to snag a near-earth asteroid and actually haul the whole thing back to a stable orbit near the moon, and then send astronauts to it to inspect it, learn about what asteroids are made of, and also to hone in on some of the techniques needed to send folks farther afield, like to Mars.”
Former NASA astronaut Gene Cernan seems skeptical of the asteroid plan. “Sounds like something out of Hollywood, doesn’t it?” Cernan said to KTRH. “It’s like Space Cowboys again.” Cernan said he, Jim Lovell and Neil Armstrong made their feelings known the past three to four years through op eds and testifying to Congress. “But nothing seems to change,” he said. “I know we have financial troubles in this country, but it’s not a case of what you ask for, it’s a case of what you have and how you use it.”
“People are interested in this,” Space.com’s Mike Hall enthused while speaking to KTRH. “People are talking about it, it’s something that’s never been done before. It sounds incredibly ambitious and just really cool to go out and grab an entire asteroid and drag it back closer to earth. It’s got scientific potential, but I think NASA knows it has the ‘WOW’ factor that’s going to get people talking.”
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the budget “…ensures the United States will remain the world's leader in space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come, while making critical advances in aerospace and aeronautics to benefit the American people.”