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NASA and Obama's budget: the politics and ideals of human space exploration

Negative reaction to the president's initial plan for NASA has forced him to backpedal a bit and offer a schedule for human spaceflights to Mars and an asteroid. He now needs to work more closely with Congress to set long-term, deep-space missions.

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Human travel to Mars is now back on America’s space agenda.

It is just one of many course-corrections that President Obama will likely be forced to make to his January proposals for big changes at NASA.

Too many Americans and lawmakers reacted negatively to the initial White House plan for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. They still see human exploration to specific destinations in space as a compelling frontier – not just for the nation but humanity, too. They weren’t ready to live only vague promises of deep-space missions, as Mr. Obama made. Nor do they want the space agency more focused on earthly tasks such as climate-change monitoring, as Obama would prefer, over scientific discovery in outer space.

The public reaction pushed the president on Thursday to set a timetable for the first Mars trip – by the mid-2030s – as well as a schedule to land on an asteroid (near 2025). He also had to set 2015 for starting construction of a heavy-lift launcher based on new innovative technology.

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