Report: Obama May Merge NASA, Pentagon Space Programs

President-elect Barack Obama will probably remove barriers between the U.S. civilian and military space programs once he takes office, according to one report.

Bloomberg News reported late Thursday that Obama's transition team was exploring collaboration between NASA and the Pentagon in order to get America's next generation of spacecraft into orbit before the scheduled date of 2015.

Military rockets may be less expensive and more readily available than NASA's planned Ares I and Ares V vehicles, which are still in testing.

The space shuttle program is due to end in 2010, and NASA will have to pay its Russian counterpart to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station for the next 5 years.

Current NASA administrator Michael Griffin, a rocket scientist himself, is a strong backer of the Constellation program, which includes the Ares vehicles. But tensions have been reported between him and both the Bush administration and the Obama transition team regarding budget restrictions and possible restructuring of Constellation.

Obama has already publicly pledged to revive the National Aeronautics and Space Council, a White House office which coordinated military and space policy from the Eisenhower through the Nixon administrations, and then again during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

The move is being spurred by fear that China, which is making great strides in space, could challenge the U.S. for orbital dominance in the near future.

"The foreign affairs and national security implications have to be considered," a former science advisor to President Clinton told Bloomberg News.

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