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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - A NASA strategy proposal shifts the U.S. human space program away from returning to the moon in favor of a stepping-stone approach aimed at reaching Mars, including using commercial space launch services, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The proposal, while not yet official policy, is a response by the U.S. space agency to one of five options contained in review ordered by President Barack Obama of NASA's post-shuttle program that plans to put astronauts on the moon again by 2020.
The review panel's executive summary was to be delivered to the White House and the NASA administrator on Tuesday, according to a notice on the panel's website.
NASA already has spent $7.7 billion of a planned $40 billion to develop a new rocket and capsule for crew transport to the station and the moon, said Jeff Hanley, manager of the post-shuttle program known as Constellation.
NASA has drafted a concept proposal called "Generation Mars" which envisions a 30-year blueprint for developing technologies, staging precursor missions to asteroids and other destinations, and building grassroots support for eventual human expeditions to Mars.