Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/12/04/nasa_budget/

Auditors cast shadow on NASA's moon budget

Too many tax dollars at stake

By Lucy Sherriff

Posted in Science, 4th December 2006 15:24 GMT

NASA is under increasing pressure from government auditors to rein in its budget for getting astronauts back to the moon.

According to Florida Today, the space agency has already started making changes to Orion, the spacecraft that will carry the astronauts, to bring its long term spending back under control. It is also revamping the Ares rockets that will launch them.

In an interview with Florida Today, Scott Horowitz, the head of NASA's moon landing program said NASA's reputation was on the line.

"It's been a while since we've been able to execute a program like this. The best way to improve credibility is to execute. We need to prove it," he said.

He argued that the space agency had a workable cost and engineering plan for building both Orion and Ares, and that despite pressure from the congressional auditors, it was pressing ahead with its plans.

Earlier this year, the auditors said there was an $18bn gap between NASA's original budget estimate ($230bn) and the projected budget from now until 2025. NASA argues that it has made changes to its plans that will have narrowed that gap already, such as scaling down the spacecraft and rockets.

But the auditors point out that the estimated budget does not account for dismantling the existing shuttle programme. They also argue that NASA's planning was not allowing for unexpected costs.

The Government Audit Office's Allen Li testified before congress that the agency was pressing ahead with its plans in a way that "carries the increased risk of cost and schedule overruns and decreased technical capability".

Li also raised concerns that NASA's focus on the moon project was impacting other science and exploration programs. ®