NASA officials, and the agency’s supporters in Congress, have argued that adding up to $2 billion to the agency’s budgets over the next two years would allow NASA to accelerate the introduction of the Orion crew exploration vehicle to as early as late 2013 (although noting that more money would not close the gap any further.) However, Constellation program manager Jeff Hanley appeared to backtrack from that yesterday, Florida Today reported, indicating that additional money would not substantially close the gap:
Jeff Hanley, manager of the NASA moon-shot program, said he is encouraged by Congress’ move to increase the agency’s funding.
However, he doubts increased funding can accelerate the rockets and spaceships envisioned to replace the retiring shuttles.
Even with extra money, a gap would remain between the end of the shuttle program in 2010 and the first crewed flight of the Orion spacecraft, which is targeted for 2014 at the earliest.
“There’s only a limit to which I can accelerate things once I’ve slowed them down,” Hanley said.
It’s possible that Hanley was repeating earlier statements and simply noting that even more money wouldn’t further reduce the gap. Of course, given the failure of previous efforts to win additional funding for NASA, and the likelihood that NASA will spend a substantial part of the next fiscal year on a continuing resolution, this may all be a moot point.