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WASHINGTON — A White House panel of independent space experts says NASA's return-to-the-moon plan just won't fly.
The problem is money. The expert panel estimates it would cost about $3 billion a year beyond NASA's current $18 billion annual budget.
"Under the budget that was proposed, exploration beyond Earth is not viable," panel member Edward Crawley, a professor of aeronautics at MIT, told The Associated Press Tuesday.
The report gives options to President Barack Obama, but said NASA's current plans have to change. Five years ago, then-President George W. Bush proposed returning astronauts to the moon by 2020. To pay for it, he planned on retiring the shuttle next year and shutting down the international space station in 2015.
All those deadlines have to change, the panel said. Space exploration would work better by including other countries and private for-profit firms, the panel concluded.
The panel had previously estimated that the current plan would cost $100 billion in spending to 2020.