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NASA's new plan: Technology before destination

By Ed O'Keefe

By The Post's NASA correspondent Joel Achenbach:

NASA has a brand-new strategy for human space flight. But now it needs to decide where to go.

The dramatic decision by the Obama administration to kill NASA's Constellation program, and with it the plan to send astronauts back to the moon to create a lunar base, has incited controversy across the space industry. It has also create a swarm of uncertainties. The old NASA strategy set a destination first, and developed technology -- rockets and a crew capsule -- to get there. The new strategy calls for pouring billions into space technologies without defining the destination.

The idea is to create technological flexibility so that astronauts could potentially visit a variety of locations in the inner solar system, including the moon, near-Earth asteroids and possibly Mars or the moons of Mars. The "Flexible Path" strategy was favored by the advisory panel appointed last year by President Obama to review NASA's options.

The NASA administrator, Charles Bolden, a former astronaut appointed by Obama to run the agency, Tuesday denied that NASA's future has become nebulous.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | February 2, 2010; 4:28 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Budget  
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