Obama outlines new U.S. space exploration plan

08:11, April 16, 2010      

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U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday outlined his administration's new space exploration plan, vowing to increase NASA's budget by six billion dollars over the next five years.
Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where America' s moon missions originated decades ago, Obama said he was "100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future."

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a speech on Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, outlining his new space exploration plan. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

In his speech, Obama announced that he wants to accelerate the development of a large, heavy-lift rocket to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. He called for a decision on the new rocket design in 2015. The rocket could be geared to launching new spacecraft and payloads for ambitious expeditions to a nearby asteroid and stable points in space called Lagrange points in preparation for a manned spaceflight to Mars.

Obama said that by 2025 he expects U.S. space exploration to reach beyond the moon and farther into the solar system's reaches, adding that he is aiming to send U.S. astronauts into Mars orbit by the mid-2030s.

"So, we'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to earth, and a landing on Mars will follow," Obama told a crowd of about 200 space experts, scientists and members of Congress.

Obama's plan includes resurrecting a pared down version of the capsule-based Orion spacecraft initially slated to be scrapped under the president's cancellation of the Constellation program in February.

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