A subcommittee of the U. S. House voted last week to cut 16 percent from next year's NASA manned spaceflight budget. Members insist the move is a "pause" until the Augustine commission on the future of manned space exploration reports its views later this summer.
It might be just a pause. President Obama has been generally, if vaguely, supportive of a vigorous manned space program, and his first budget included an extra $1 billion for NASA. Mr. Augustine, too, has argued for a strong manned program.
There has been grumblings, both inside and outside of NASA, that the new Constellation program is going down the wrong path, but the Augustine group likely won't have the time to analyze the program in detail. What it might do is note the stirrings of support for an international effort to establish a lunar base and support that direction. Bringing international partners into the program could cut costs to NASA even while establishing a vigorous new manned exploration initiative that could lead to more ambitious programs.