President Obama proposed a budget increase of 6 billion dollars for NASA over 5 years starting in 2011. At the same time, he officially ended the Constellation program, which would have produced the Ares I and Ares V rockets for manned Moon missions. “We’ve already been to the Moon” the President stated in his 28 minute speech from the Kennedy Space Center.

After the expected retirement of the space shuttle fleet later this year, U.S. astronauts will hitch rides into space on Russian Soyuz rockets for an unspecified period of time. The administration’s plan is to invest in private sector space tourism companies that are currently researching and developing rockets. Currently none of the companies have a rocket that is designed, or in the works, that is capable of sending a crew of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The cost of shuttling astronauts to and from the ISS on Soyuz rockets is expected to have a cost that is somewhere in the range of 55 million dollars per astronaut.

The idea of scrapping a manned Moon landing has drawn the ire of those such as the second man to set foot on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, who think that future Moon landings and manned outposts are necessary steps toward reaching Mars.

President Obama’s space exploration plans include traveling to a near earth object such as an astroid and development of rockets that will eventually propel astronauts to Mars.