NASA expected to request 5.6% increase in budget to kick-start manned Mars project

NASA's second major loss as a result of President George Bush's new space initiative is the plan to establish an International Space Station Research Institute, which has been "postponed", the agency says. NASA has already been forced to cancel a Space Shuttle flight to service the Hubble Space Telescope (Flight International, 27 January-2 February).

Some US politicians question Bush's commitment to his space plan after he made no mention of it in his 20 January state of the union address. Attention is now focused on NASA's fiscal year 2005 budget request, due next week and expected to total $16.2 billion, a 5.6% increase to kick-start the initiative.

Following Bush's call for a return to the Moon, as a stepping stone for crewed missions into the Solar System, the future of the ISS "is still to be determined", says Mike Costelnik, NASA's Space Shuttle and Space Station programme chief. The ISS is to be completed in 2010 - 16 years later than planned when the project was initiated by President Reagan in 1984. The project has cost over $90 billion so far.

Under the Bush plan the Shuttle is to be retired in 2010 upon completion of the ISS, and NASA will have to rely on Russian Soyuz TMA crewed flights until the planned Crew Exploration Vehicle begins manned flights in 2014. It is likely that NASA's international ISS partners, led by Russia, will take more responsibility for operations.

Source: Flight International