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WASHINGTON – NASA briefed senior White House officials Wednesday on its plan to spend $100 billion and the next 12 years building the spacecraft and rockets it needs to put humans back on the Moon by 2018.
The U.S. space agency now expects to roll out its lunar exploration plan to key Congressional committees on Friday and to the broader public through a news conference on Monday, Washington sources tell SPACE.com.
U.S. President George W. Bush called in January 2004 for the United States to return to the Moon by 2020 as the first major step in a broader space exploration vision aimed at extending the human presence throughout the solar system.
NASA’s Crew Exploration Vehicle is expected to cost $5.5 billion to develop, according to government and industry sources, and the Crew Launch Vehicle another $4.5 billion. The heavy-lift launcher, which would be capable of lofting 125 metric tons of payload, is expected to cost more than $5 billion but less than $10 billion to develop, according to these sources.
NASA’s plan also calls for using the Crew Exploration Vehicle, equipped with as many as six seats, to transport astronauts to and from the international space station. An unmanned version of the Crew Exploration Vehicle could be used to deliver a limited amount of cargo to the space station.
NASA would like to field the Crew Exploration Vehicle by 2011, or within a year of when it plans to fly the space shuttle for the last time. Development of the heavy lift launcher, lunar lander and Earth departure stage would begin in 2011. By that time, according to NASA’s charts, the space agency would expect to be spending $7 billion a year on its exploration efforts, a figure projected to grow to more than $15 billion a year by 2018,