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They were ‘Constellations’ apart
With NASA under control, Obama has to now seize the opportunity

The Columbia disaster in 2003 (which also killed India-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla) was indeed the eye opener they needed, if at all they needed one. Post this incident, the then President George W. Bush suggested the use of Apollo like capsules and rockets (the program known as Constellation) instead of orbiter fleet for further space programs. Furthermore, his vision was to resend a man to the Moon by 2020 and then a man on Mars.

During his election campaign, even Barack Obama reiterated his commitment to this vision and further stressed on cumulative support for aeronautics and earth sciences. After assuming office, he enunciated, “We need to restore that sense of excitement and interest that existed around the space program,” (referring to the Cold War days). But a coordinated and definitive vision is still not outlined.

Obama has his own reasons. NASA requires $18 billion annually. The Constellation as advocated by Bush has to deal with technical hazards and an oversized budget. The program cannot be made operational right now; the expected delay is around three years. Also, Obama has to fight his way to be able to implement his own policies regarding NASA.

Before he took oath, Obama’s transition team went into loggerheads with the then NASA administrator Mike Griffin. Griffin did not cooperate with Lori Garver (head of the Space transition team). To protect the Constellation program, Griffin went to the extent of calling NASA vendors and asked them to openly support Constellation to the Obama team.

In July, Obama was successful in ousting Griffin and in placing Charles Frank Bolden, a retired Marine Corps Major General, to the position of new administrator of NASA. It is now imperative for the duo to bring out an objective vision plan and work on execution. Much time has been lost already.

By:- Sayan Ghosh

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