NASA’s Inglorious Ending

There are two space shuttle flights left before those vehicles are fully retired by NASA - if there's enough money left in the space agency budget.

Yep, that was one of the angles that came out of a Senate hearing yesterday on the space program, as Senators again complained about the future of NASA, and pressed officials for details on how the shuttle will be replaced.

NASA chieftains led by William Gerstenmaier performed yet another bureaucratic dance at the witness table, assuring Senators that they were working on plans for a new heavy lift rocket and crew vehicle, but leaving no discernible footprints on when any of that might actually start flying.

Gerstenmaier also warned Congress against making any budget cuts to NASA the rest of this year, saying it could derail the final shuttle flight, set for June.

"If we got a significant budget cut here in the Continuing Resolution, that could potentially cause some concerns," said Gerstenmaier.

Earlier this month, NASA chief Charlie Bolden was more blunt, saying "all bets would be off" if NASA suffered more budget cuts.

There is some money being chopped out of NASA this week in the 3-week stop gap budget bill that's going through Congress, as it would take $63 million out of the space agency's over $18 billion budget.

That's less than the $300 million cut in the House passed $61 billion cutback plan, which again drew the ire of Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.

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