With NASA’s budget under pressure and the space shuttle program set to retire, even the agency’s most sacred cow — the 64-member astronaut corps — isn’t safe from the possibility of cuts.
At the behest of the White House, the nation’s top science advisors this month began a 10-month study of the appropriate “role and size” of the astronaut corps after the final shuttle mission next year.
The study, by the National Academies, reflects two realities: NASA’s budget, squeezed by congressional budget hawks and its own cost overruns, needs every penny. More significantly, the United States may not need all these astronauts, reports The Orlando Sentinel.
Nonetheless, “The Chumps” (new astronaut recruits) may well be flying in commercial owned spacecraft by mid-decade, if American private sector aspirations are realized. Government NASA astronauts may be left thumbing rides from commercial space launch firms and other national civil space programs in the near term future.