It looks like there will be no moon base and no Mars landing for the U.S. in the near future. The Washington Post reports that Obama administration officials will meet with the Human Space Flight Plans Committee, an advisory panel, on Friday. The panel is likely to say that, thanks to budgetary constraints, it's impossible to land Americans to the moon by 2020, as President Bush proposed in 2004. The 2020 moon landing is only possible if NASA de-orbits the politically popular international space station early, in 2016. Alternately, if the station stays in orbit until 2020, NASA could have a new Ares rocket and Orion crew capsule ready to blast off by 2028, but no moon base components. The panel's alternate plan, the "Deep Space" option, would deep-six the moon base in favor of fly-bys that would send astronauts to hover over Phobos, one of Mars' moons, as well as over near-Earth asteroids and Lagrange points, gravitationally significant points in space. But selling the public on plans that don't include actually landing on anything is likely to be difficult.
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