When humans dream of human escape to space through spaceflight and exploration, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) comes to the front of our minds. From the first rudimentary leaps beyond the earth’s atmosphere, to the first mammals that were sent into the unknown, to our current state of advanced experience in space flight, work, and travel, the new frontier of space continues to beckon, amaze, and to capture our attention.
The Constellation Program (CxP) is the United States human spaceflight program under NASA. The goals of CxP are to …”gain significant experience in operating away from Earth’s environment, developing technologies needed for opening the space frontier and conducting fundamental science.” (CxP 2009)
The study that was instrumental in developing Constellation was the Exploration Systems Architecture Study that was laid out in the Space Exploration and the NASA Authorization Act of 2005.
The original components of Constellation include
Development of spacecraft and booster vehicles that would replace the Space Shuttle
Sending astronauts to the Moon and to Mars
The development of the Ares I and Ares V boosters have the sole function of launching mission crews into orbit. Ares I would launch humans. Ares V would launch heavier hardware to be used on missions.
The development of other spacecraft for use under Constellation, such as the Orion crew capsule, the Earth Departure Stage and the Altair Lunar Lander.
The goals that were established by former President Bush included:
An extended presence on the moon
Processing and harvesting lunar soil into rocket fuel or breathable air.
Develop and test new approaches and technologies
Establish a sustainable course for long-term exploration
NASA expresses the following goals and desires:
Continued pursuit of scientific activities related to the moon
The extending of human colonization
Testing of new technologies, systems, flight operations with future explorations in mind
The economic sphere and its expansion into research activities that benefit Earth
Public interest and education that trains and meets the increasing need for a high-technology workforce
The program was cancelled by President Obama on February 1, 2020 and the cancellation is effective with the 2011 fiscal year federal budget. The financial overdrafts and lack of cohesive planning were cited as the cause of the cancellation.
However, 6 billion in funding over the next five years will be provided, with some of the money expected to be used to encourage private enterprise to provide funding for the above goals of developing more effective boosters and technology.
It is well known that there is great conflict in the social, public, economic and political spheres over the ideas of space exploration and travel during times of great economic instability and distress. There is both encouragement to cancel the expensive endeavor and there is distress over anything that challenges the lofty goals of the endeavor, so it will take time to know whether the economy will recover enough to support its goals.