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Obama - Evolvable Mars Campaign
Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative

The Obama Administration's Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative supported the development of "game-changing" space technologies that will lower the cost and increase the capabilities of future space activities. It also supported the ability of American companies to carry people to space, and science missions and research that will enhance human understanding of the Earth and solar system. In April 2010 President Obama committed NASA to a series of development milestones he said would lead to new spacecraft for astronauts to ride to the International Space Station, a modified Orion capsule developed as an emergency return spacecraft, and a powerful new rocket.

Obama's plan largely mirrored the "flexible path" option offered by a blue-ribbon Augustine panel established by the president to help decide the best map for future space exploration. The outline did not do away with all the research and development from Constellation. Noting the success of the agency's development of the Orion crew capsule, Obama called on NASA to develop a version of that spacecraft so it can be launched without a crew to the International Space Station. It will be based there as an emergency craft for astronauts living on the orbiting laboratory.

Obama said "by 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space. 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. And I expect to be around to see it."

About $3.1 billion of the additional funding would go into research and development for a heavy-lift rocket. A design for a large booster would be chosen in 2015 with the goal of launching the spacecraft a few years later. The bigger rocket could be used to loft payloads too large for most boosters, including giant fuel depots that would be parked in distant orbits so spacecraft could refuel on their way to asteroids, the moons of Mars and eventually Mars itself.

The Obama Administration’s edition of an "Augustine report" stated that, “There is now a strong consensus in the United States that the next step in human spaceflight is to travel beyond low-Earth orbit.” The “Journey to Mars” is a long range vision to guide near term activities and investments – there is no line item in the NASA budget for a “Journey to Mars” program. Studies supporting the Evolvable Mars Campaign were an ongoing series of architectural trade analyses, guided by Strategic Principles, to define the capabilities and elements needed for a sustainable human presence on Mars.

The Obama Administration came into office facing a broad range of challenges, not least of which were the technical and budgetary difficulties of the U.S. human spaceflight program – Constellation – that it had inherited. OSTP and NASA stood up, for that purpose, an independent blue-ribbon panel, the Committee to Review U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans. Led by the distinguished aerospace engineer Norman Augustine, the committee comprised ten experts of diverse experience – in the U.S. government, the military, industry, and the astronaut corps.

The Augustine Committee’s thorough and thoughtful analysis helped illuminate the range and severity of the challenges faced by the Constellation program --making clear that it had become “unexecutable” under any plausible set of assumptions about costs and budgets going forward – as well as clarifying the options for revamping U.S. human spaceflight activities so as to maximize what could be achieved under budgets that might realistically be available. Most fundamentally, the Augustine report made clear that Constellation had been plagued from the beginning by a mismatch between plans and available resources, and that it had been hindered as well by decades of underinvestment in new technology and innovation at NASA.

The program’s stated goal of returning U.S. astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2020, moreover, using a much larger rocket (Ares V) and a lunar lander that were both still on the drawing board, was no longer within reach regardless of how much money might be spent on it. And under plausible NASA budgets going forward, the Constellation program could not have put U.S. astronauts back on the Moon until sometime after 2030.

The Obama Administration's Fiscal Year 2011 budget shut down parts of America's ability to continue human space flight by killing the Constellation program within NASA. President Barack Obama spoke at the Kennedy Space Center on Space Exploration in the 21st Century on 15 April 2010 : " the old strategy -- including the Constellation program -- was not fulfilling its promise in many ways. That’s not just my assessment; that’s also the assessment of a panel of respected non-partisan experts charged with looking at these issues closely. " ... we will extend the life of the International Space Station likely by more than five years, while actually using it for its intended purpose: conducting advanced research that can help improve the daily lives of people here on Earth, as well as testing and improving upon our capabilities in space. This includes technologies like more efficient life support systems that will help reduce the cost of future missions. And in order to reach the space station, we will work with a growing array of private companies competing to make getting to space easier and more affordable.

"... we will build on the good work already done on the Orion crew capsule. I’ve directed Charlie Bolden to immediately begin developing a rescue vehicle using this technology, so we are not forced to rely on foreign providers if it becomes necessary to quickly bring our people home from the International Space Station. And this Orion effort will be part of the technological foundation for advanced spacecraft to be used in future deep space missions. In fact, Orion will be readied for flight right here in this room.

"Next, we will invest more than $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced “heavy lift rocket” -- a vehicle to efficiently send into orbit the crew capsules, propulsion systems, and large quantities of supplies needed to reach deep space. In developing this new vehicle, we will not only look at revising or modifying older models; we want to look at new designs, new materials, new technologies that will transform not just where we can go but what we can do when we get there. And we will finalize a rocket design no later than 2015 and then begin to build it.

"Early in the next decade, a set of crewed flights will test and prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit. (Applause.) And by 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space. So we’ll start -- 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. And I expect to be around to see it....

"I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. Buzz has been there. There’s a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do. So I believe it’s more important to ramp up our capabilities to reach -- and operate at -- a series of increasingly demanding targets, while advancing our technological capabilities with each step forward. And that’s what this strategy does. And that’s how we will ensure that our leadership in space is even stronger in this new century than it was in the last."

The Obama administration on 28 June 2019 unveiled a space policy that renounced the unilateral stance of the Bush administration and instead emphasized international cooperation. The Obama plan entailed building a scaled-back version of the Constellation program’s Orion crew capsule to provide crew emergency-escape services for the ISS and to provide part of the technological foundation for the advanced spacecraft to be used in future deep-space missions, and pursuing a series of increasingly demanding human-exploration missions to include a mission to an asteroid by 2025 and an orbital Mars mission in the mid-2030s, demonstrating key capabilities for a later Mars landing while also achieving historical firsts in exploration and discovery.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2019 18:35:08 ZULU