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US manned space programme too expensive: White House panel

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A File Photo of space shuttle Discovery launch.

WASHINGTON (AFP/PTI): NASA's plans to send a man to the moon and beyond have been derailed by a lack of funds, and the US human space programme "appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory," a presidential panel has said.

In a 12-page summary report offering a bleak assessment of plans to send astronauts back to the moon, the committee said that a robust human space flight programme would cost USD three billion more than the USD 18 billion currently in NASA's budget.

"Space operations become all the more difficult when means do not match aspirations," the committee wrote. "Such is the case today."

The programme to send humans back into space, dubbed Constellation, was launched by former US president George W Bush in 2004, with the goal of sending astronauts to Mars in 2020.

But in an executive summary of its report released Tuesday, a White House commission named by President Barack Obama to review the US manned space programme, said the current schedule was unachievable.

The panel made clear that NASA lacks the funding to accomplish the ambitious goal set by Bush of returning to the moon in a little over a decade.

The committee recommended a "flexible path" that could explore the inner solar system with a "possible rendezvous with Mars' moons or human lunar return by the mid to late 2020s.

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