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Keeping the U.S. in the space race

Wednesday, February 17, 2010; A12

Charles Krauthammer was badly off target in his Feb. 12 op-ed, "Closing the new frontier," on the Obama administration's plans for the U.S. space program. As the blue-ribbon Augustine Committee concluded last year, the Bush plan, not the Obama plan, would have left the United States a loser in space.

Despite valiant efforts by NASA and its contractors, President George W. Bush's Constellation program would not have been able to send astronauts to the international space station until two years after the station had crashed into the ocean. The Augustine Committee also concluded that America's dependence on Russia to get to low-Earth orbit is likely to be shorter under the new plan, with its increased participation of the private sector. As for returning to the moon, the last administration's target of doing so by 2020 was by now unachievable under any budget.

The Obama administration's plan adds $6 billion to NASA's budget over five years and extends the life of the space station to get full value from the nearly $100 billion invested in it. It partners with the private sector to develop quicker, cheaper, home-grown capacity to put astronauts in orbit; invests in R&D for game-changing technologies to take Americans to deep-space destinations faster; and revitalizes NASA programs in Earth observation, space science and aeronautics.

The administration's plan for NASA is right for the agency, for the times and for continuing U.S. leadership in space.

John P. Holdren and Charles Bolden,

Washington

John P. Holdren is President Obama's science and technology adviser and director of the White Office of Science and Technology Policy. Charles Bolden is NASA administrator.

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Two near-miracles happened when I read Charles Krauthammer's Feb. 12 column: First, I agreed with him. It would be a shame to cede our dominance of near-Earth space. Second, and even more surprising, I witnessed a conservative pundit skewering the president for turning over a field of endeavor to the private sector.

Dan Carsen, Birmingham, Ala.

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