Lyles Concerned With New NASA Priorities

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WASHINGTON — A member of the White House-appointed panel tasked last year with assessing NASA’s Moon-bound Constellation program said the U.S. space agency’s 2011 budget proposal under-funds human spaceflight.

In a May 7 letter to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Lester Lyles praised NASA’s $19 billion spending plan for the coming year for adequately funding key agency activities including Earth and space science, and advanced technology development, and for pledging to continue flying the international space station. But Lyles, the only member of the 10-person Augustine panel — informally named after its chairman, former Lockheed Martin chief Norm Augustine — to personally endorse continued development of Constellation’s Ares 1 rocket, said the agency’s new direction boosts these activities at the expense of human spaceflight.

“This time the pendulum has swung the other way,” Lyles states in the letter, which was co-signed by Raymond Colladay, chairman of the National Research Council’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, and Len Fisk, former head of Earth and space science at NASA. “The proposed funding for NASA grows, but in large part, the funds to restore the under-funded programs of NASA come from the cancellation of Constellation, which is to be replaced by largely undefined programs in which astronauts are to be ferried to the [international space station] on commercially developed launch vehicles and more advanced technologies are to be deployed to extend the human presence into space.”