America gives up on space race -

The US has decided that it is a waste of cash sending men and women to the Moon or Mars.

President Obama in his 2011 budget decided that the Constellation programme envisaged new rockets and a new crewship called Orion to put astronauts on the lunar surface by 2020 was too costly, "behind schedule, and lacking in innovation".

Nasa has already spent $9 billion on the programme which Obama said was draining resources from other US space agency activities. He plans instead to turn to the private sector for launch services.

Jim Kohlenberger, chief of staff at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) said that while Obama was cancelling Constellation,  the administration was not cancelling US ambitions.

It claimed that running the space race like it did 40 years ago was pointless and there should be game-changing new technology that can take us further, faster and more affordably into space.

Critics claimed the programme was never properly funded, and when it ran into technical difficulties its time schedule also began to slip.

It will cost Nasa $2.5 billion to close it completely and hit Florida, where the programme is being developed, hard.

Obama wants a pitiful amount of cash - $500 million in 2011 - to be used to incentivise private companies, to help them bring forward a new generation of launch systems to carry humans to and from space.  This probably means that Beardie can get Virgin flights to the moon next.

The US has been looking for money to pay for its bail-out of incompetent bankers who stuffed up the economy. Giving vast amounts of cash to keep Wall Street bankers in their third houses was deemed more important for humanity than any space programme.