Guard dog criticizes rising costs, delays of next NASA rocket on the moon



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The giant rocket that Nasa plans to use to return to the Moon by 2024 was plagued by delays and spending by nearly 30 percent, an official audit said on Wednesday.

The delays threaten the schedule set by President Donald Trump's government to put astronauts on lunar soil five years from now, testing the next generation of spacecraft before an eventual manned mission to Mars.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said that the cost of the first single-use space launch system (SLS) built by Boeing rose from $ 6.2 billion to $ 8 billion, or 29%.

Its first flight was scheduled to occur in November 2018, a date later revised to June 2020, but even that goal is "unlikely," the GAO said, adding that "the first launch could occur by June 2021."

The program had already been criticized by some in the space community as a patronage project kept alive because of its importance to jobs, especially in Alabama, the state represented by the Senator who oversees the appropriations, including NASA's finances.

The watchdog also accused the space agency of being opaque in its cost estimates.

"NASA's decisions on how to report cost growth are not totally transparent and in particular obscure the difficulties that the SLS program has faced to control costs," the report said.

Costs for the Orion capsule being built by Lockheed Martin that will carry the astronauts have also grown.

NASA estimated this cost at 5.6%, but the GAO said it was based on an inaccurate release date and that the actual value would be much higher.

The audit also criticized NASA for continuing to give Boeing and Lockheed Martin millions of dollars a month in "reward rates" for good performance and urged the space agency to "reevaluate its strategy to encourage contractors to achieve better results" .

The company criticized Boeing for specific criticism, saying the aerospace giant had "underestimated the staffing levels needed to build the core stage in the time available," and focused on minimizing the number of technicians, in part to keep their costs low.

Eventually, he hired the necessary number of technicians, but many had no experience in space flights and time was wasted to catch up.

ia ft

© Agence France-Presse

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