NASA's return to the moon 'unsustainable,' says review

The budgetary review of NASA ordered by President Obama has found that the program needs quite a bit more money than previously thought to reach its goal of getting back to the moon by 2020: $3 billion more yearly is needed, the panel of experts say, on top of NASA already contested annual budget of $18 billion. The goal of "back to the moon within the next decade" was set during the Bush administration.

The panel has thus deemed the trajectory NASA is currently following "unsustainable" and calls for a "flexible path." NASA was already hoping to reduce its operating budget by retiring its fleet of space shuttles in 2010 and — in a most radical step — ceasing operations on the International Space Station in 2015.

It's not like NASA itself is about to shutter its doors, but what happens next is anyone's guess. The review board proposed a series of alternatives along said "flexible path," including going to one of Mars's moons instead (and not by 2020), seeking more help from foreign nations, redesigning the Ares lunar rockets, or more seriously pressing the challenge of space exploration into the private sector.

News.com.au, via redOrbit, via Fast Company