Reporting from Washington and Cape Canaveral, Fla. — NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon are dead. So are the rockets being designed to take them there, if President Obama gets his way.
When the White House releases its budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program that was to return humans to the moon by 2020. The Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to return to the moon. There will be no lunar landers, no moon bases.
"We certainly don't need to go back to the moon," one administration official said.
Instead, according to White House insiders, agency officials, industry executives and congressional sources familiar with Obama's plans, NASA will look at developing a "heavy-lift" rocket that one day will take humans and robots to explore beyond low-Earth orbit. That day will be years away.
The White House will direct NASA to concentrate on Earth-science projects -- principally, researching and monitoring climate change -- and on a new technology research and development program designed to someday enable human exploration of asteroids and the inner solar system.