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NASA's Moon Program Slowdown Within the Law, Report Finds

NASA Poised for 2nd Try to Launch Landmark Rocket Test
As the sun rises over Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rotating service structure and the arms of the vehicle stabilization system have been retracted from around the Constellation Program's 327-foot-tall Ares I-X rocket, resting atop its mobile launcher platform, for an Oct. 27, 2009, launch try. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.? NASA did not violatefederal law or congressional guidance by taking actions that wouldprematurelykill the Constellation program, according to a legal opinion releasedMonday bythe government's watchdog agency.

U.S.Government Accountability Office attorneys found"no evidence" that NASA was holding back Constellation funds or"taking any steps to terminate or endthe Constellation program."

Theyalso said NASA wasn't wrong to ask contractors toset aside nearly $1 billion to cover the cost of terminating contracts,buttook no position on whether past contracts had established differentexpectations. [NASA'sNew Direction: FAQ]

Theopinion respondedto a requestfrom members of Congress who criticized aJune 9 letter from NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden as a back-dooreffort tokill Constellation, the return-to-the-moon program that PresidentBarack Obamawants to cancel.

Theletter announced a new set of priorities for thefiscal year ending Sept. 30, giving "low priority" to projects thatcould only be used by Constellation.

"Wewere doing the things we needed to do to staywithin appropriations law and believe the GAO opinion supports ouractions," said Bob Jacobs, a NASA spokesman.

U.S.Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, said Monday that"while NASA may have complied with the letter of the law they certainlyfailed to follow the spirit of the law."

Despitecontroversy over the letter, it has not had amajor impact. Work continues on the Ares I rocket and the Orionspacecraft.

PendingNASA legislation in the House and Senate wouldpreserve some key Constellation elements in a restructured humanspaceflight program.

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