NASA is looking for additional funding to ensure its next generation rocket program gets off the ground according to news released today. The space agency is close to $500 million short on the $13 billion bill to build that rocket that's supposed to bring a man to Mars for the first time. Original plans said that the rocket system would be completed in 2017 and would be tested for the first time in December.
Both of those dates are unlikely to be met if the agency cannot come up with the funding needed for the project. Today's report on the funding shortfall comes from the Government Accountability Office, which brought attention to the financial troubles that NASA was having. Autoworldnews reported on the problems the shortfall could project on the project's flight schedule.
NASA can't fund Space Launch System
The Space Launch System is the next generation space-ship launch mechanism being developed by NASA. The project was approved in 2011, and appears to have been proceeding relatively well despite criticism from some quarters. Today's announcement of a budget shortfall means that the agency will either have to return to Congress with cap in hand or find other means of funding the project.
According to the GAO audit the space agency is “at high risk of missing the planned December 2017 launch date for the EM-1 initial test flight.” If NASA misses that date because of funding issues there is no telling how long the delay will go on for, or what that means for the project as a whole. With that in mind the GAO described the technical problems with the project as manageable and said that the agency was making good progress toward its goal.
The author of the report, XXX, flatly stated "They can't meet the date with the money they have." NASA responded to the audit and released a statement saying that it was working on its funding problems. It's not clear if the agency will go looking for additional funding or how it will try to meet that shortfall.
The project is apparently set to cost $18 billion through 2025. With shortfalls this early in the story, and a knowledge of NASA spending, it's clear that the taxpayer may have to invest a little more than that to set a human on the surface of out closest neighboring planet.
NASA aims to get back into space
NASA isn't much of a space agency at the moment. Though the government arm has its share of engineers and scientists, it's not all that easy for them to get into space. Russia handles flights to and from the international space station, while SpaceX does a certain amount of the supply.runs to the orbiting base. NASA is trying to develop a less expensive and safer replacement for the Space Shuttle System and the next generation Space Launch System is a foundational part of that endeavor.
The SLS is supposed to stand 321 feet high and head to Mars for the first time some time after 2024. It's also apparently capable of vising, and returning from, many of the solar system's other orbiting bodies.