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Congress calls for "time-out" on NASA's human space flight funding

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Lawmakers have tapped the brakes on NASA's post-shuttle future. When the House appropriations subcommittee handed back President Obama's proposed $18.7 billion NASA budget last week, the bill was $483 million lighter.

Most notable among the cuts was a 16 percent slash to the agency's budget for manned space exploration, originally weighing in at $4 billion.

The move "reflects the uncertainty surrounding NASA's current strategy for replacing the space shuttle and returning astronauts to the moon by 2020," wrote Space.com.

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D) of West Virginia, chairman of the subcommittee, stressed that the cuts did not mean Congress has lost faith in NASA. Instead, the congressmen are waiting for the results of a 10-member panel that's looking into the future of manned mission.

With NASA's shuttle program coming to an end in 2010, the White House formed a commission, headed by former Lockheed Martin chief Norm Augustine, to investigate the Orion capsule, Ares I rocket, and the other technologies on the table. Their report should come in August.

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