According to this July 18 story on Aero-News.net, NASA not only concedes that it's hoped-for launch of the Orion program will be pushed back from 2013, the actual targeted 2015 date is also in doubt. Citing a 117 page internal NASA report
Let's see: The President says we should go back to the Moon. Congress doesn't much care for the President. So it's no surprise that Congress doesn't fund the President's requests. But look closer: This is Washington, where nothing makes sense, at least not for long: The House apparently gave the Administration more than it asked for. Thus, says Aero-news.net, "NASA is concerned that budget won't make it out of the Senate... and if it does, that the Bush administration will veto it."
Let's pause to parse that, shall we? The Democratic-controlled House gave NASA more money than the Administration asked for but the Democratic-controlled Senate may not concur. If it did, however, NASA fears that the President, who'd asked for an increase in the first place, would nevertheless veto it. Presumably because the Democrats wanted it.
And people want to stay on this planet?
Says Aero-news.net, "Such a defeat would push Orion back even further, making even the March 2015 target a nebulous one."
Meanwhile, reports Michael Barkoviak, in a July 16 report on a site called Daily Tech, some 57 NASA engineers are apparently working, on their own time, to design a launch vehicle for NASA's return to the Moon (called "Jupiter") that is allegedly easier and safer to build than the officially sanctioned Ares vehicle. NASA, however, is committed to the Ares launcher and has dismissed the Jupiter design as unworkable.
Is NASA protecting its little (Earthbound) empire? Barkoviak writes that the "Ares team is made up of thousands of NASA engineers and government contractors" and that $7 billion has been spent so far on Ares development.
It certainly would look bad for NASA if 57 men and women working in their spare time came up with something better. But this is precisely the kind of effort needed to breathe new life and hope into the moribund space program. I wish some person or company with enough money or vision could pick up Jupiter and see if it really would fly.
If nothing else, it would make NASA work harder and better on Ares.
I was not yet a teenager when Armstrong and Aldrin left their footprints on the Moon. At this rate, if I'm alive at all, I will be an old man before another American gets back to the Moon. (Several Asian nations seem more likely to get to the Moon for the first time before America gets there again.)
I'm getting impatient. Isn't anybody else getting impatient also?