Enlarge / This artist rendering shows an aerial view of the liftoff of the SLS rocket during Exploration Mission 1. (credit: NASA)
The US Congress championed the creation of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket in 2010, at which time its members also successfully beat back an effort by the Obama administration to end support for the Orion spacecraft.
Since then, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate have patiently spent $3 billion to $4 billion annually for continued development of these deep space vehicles.
However, in recent years the projected launch date of the first flight of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft has slipped to the right, from 2017 to 2018 and now likely into mid-2020. While overall support remains strong for these space vehicles, delays in their development may have begun to break the almost uniform congressional approbation for these exploration programs.
During a hearing Thursday before a House subcommittee over NASA, some of those concerns spilled into the public. “It is very disappointing to hear about delays caused by poor execution when the US taxpayer has invested so much in these programs,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. “NASA and the contractors should not assume future delays and cost overruns will have no consequences.”
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