Report: NASA moon mission cut, Stennis impact unclear

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The future of scheduled engine testing at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County is unclear as of now. The Washington Post is reporting that NASA's grand plan to return to the moon by 2020 is about to be over. President Obama is scheduled to release his budget request on Monday. The newspaper reports there won't be anything in the budget about flying to the moon.

The budget numbers will instead show that the administration effectively plans to kill the Constellation program. The news also means the death of the Ares 1 rocket, NASA's planned successor to the space shuttle. The agency has spent billions developing the rocket, which is still years from its first scheduled crew flight.

Stennis Space Center in Hancock County has been preparing for its role in engine testing for the Ares rocket.

On Sunday, Stennis Spokesperson Paul Foerman told WLOX-TV "Until the budget is rolled out, we have no idea is what is going to happen. As of right now we have received no change in direction. We are continuing to build the A-3 test stand and making modifications to A-1 test stand for testing the J2X engine. That engine is planned to be used for the vehicles that will replace the space shuttle."

During a briefing on Sunday, an White House administration official said the budget will call for spending $6 Billion over five years to develop a commercial spacecraft that could taxi astronauts low earth orbit.

Former NASA administrator Michael Griffin, who championed the Constellation program, views the Obama budget as disastrous for human space flight.

"It means that essentially the U.S. has decided that they're not going to be a significant player in human space flight for the foreseeable future. The path that they're on with this budget is a path that can't work," Griffin said, anticipating the Monday announcement.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said Sunday, "The President is committed to a robust 21st century space program, and his budget will reflect that dedication to NASA."

The administration believes the new funding for the commercial program would create up to 1,700 jobs, which could help offset the expected loss of 7,000 jobs in Florida when the space shuttle is retired next year.

It is not known if Congress will consent to Obama's change in direction.

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