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concentrating on bigger rockets and new places to explore,
no-landing flights around the moon and Mars. Landing on the moon and then launching back to Earth would require a lot of fuel because of the moon's gravity. Hauling fuel from Earth to the moon and then back costs money. It would take less fuel to land and return from asteroids or comets that swing by Earth or even the Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, Augustine said. Eventually, Augustine said NASA could return to the moon, but as a training stepping stone, not a major destination, as the Bush plan envisioned.
Crawley said the panel liked the idea of a commercially operated, more basic rocket-taxi to get astronauts into the low-Earth orbit of the space station. If NASA spent about $5 billion to help kick-start the embryonic commercial space business to do the people-carrying, then the space agency could concentrate on heavier rockets that do the real far-off exploring, he said.