In February, President Barack Obama announced that he was putting the kibosh on George W. Bush’s $100 billion Constellation program, which had aimed to get Americans back on the moon by 2020.
Critics of the space program welcomed the move. In recent decades, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has delivered little more than unreliable cost estimates, missed deadlines, and limited scientific payoff—all while keeping an ancient, expensive space shuttle fleet on life support.
Meanwhile, many private options for getting into space are likely to come online in the next year or two, most notably Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. If the proposed budget survives the legislative process, $6 billion in space funds will be redirected to such private firms.
Obama’s jolt to the space agency’s budget has several hurdles to clear before becoming a reality. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), whose home state hosts major NASA facilities, offered this analysis at a hearing in February: “When the president says that he’s going to cancel Constellation, I can tell you that to muster the votes and to overcome that, it’s going to be very, very difficult.”