POSTED: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 3:29pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 11:13am
NASA's Space Program is facing huge budget cuts next year.
The next NASA budget makes big cuts in its plans to launch Mars missions from Cape Canaveral, but officials said that budget also represents an attempt to keep the next launch of astronauts from the Cape on track.
Officials said, with the budget shrinking, it might take five more years before they could again send astronauts to space.
"Everyone is reducing their budget, that's the only thing we can do," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden.
It means the first launch of astronauts on privately built space ships from the Cape won't come in 2014 or 2015, as was envisioned last year, but in 2017.
SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, and Boeing are working on putting astronauts into vehicles they're building now, but much of the money comes from NASA.
That money was cut last year and was not restored in this year's $17.7 billion budget that was released Monday.
The launch of two Mars probes for 2016 and 2018 will also be cancelled.
NASA's new government-built rocket and spacecraft, however, will stay on track for a test-launch in 2014.
The next space telescope, to be launched in 2018, is six years behind schedule.
It will cost about $8 billion, taking up a huge chunk of NASA's budget.
The budget provides for all three retired space shuttles to be transferred to their new homes, with a final layoff of about 150 workers, on top of around 8,000 shuttle jobs cut over the past few years.
Officials said the plan is for U.S. astronauts to launch on Russian rockets, assuming Russia can keep launching them. But all the United States can do is talk about it.
"I'm committed to launching astronauts from American soil on spacecraft built by American companies," Bolden said.
The budget will now go to Congress. Officials said Congress made more cuts in it last year and it won't be surprising for them to do the same thing with this budget.