First let me say that I am genuinely concerned for my buddies working the Constellation program. I pray for them that their families and their careers may be provided for. I'm really glad that Obama asks for $2.5 Billion in Constellation closeout costs, because I hope that that keeps paying for my friend's kid's baby food. I have already felt the same way for my friend's valiantly supporting the shuttle throughout it's glorious ULF5(7?) end. It's like knowingly marching towards a cliff because you believe in what you are doing.
The Orion crew size recently dropped to 4 from 6. 4 is a very small number. That's 1 more than the 40 year old Russian Soyuz. That's 2 less than the space stations current crew compliment. That's less than the fingers that I have on one hand. Its. too. small.
If that wasn't enough, NASA picked reliable low performance non space regenerative hypergolic fuel for the thrusters of the Orion capsule, rather than methane, which was in the original planes, which can be harvested from Mars, volatile rich regions of the lunar poles, or anywhere else in the solar system where there is ice. Or an ECLSS by-product. Lame disappointment.
Ares 1 was really behind schedule.
The Lunar Lander contract was not funded. Ares 5 was not funded. And it was January 2010. Come on! The RFI for the Altair Conceptual Design Contract came out a long time ago!
Europe, Russia, Japan, and China were completely out of the Constellation picture. That's not cool. And that's not economically viable. And international partnerships are probably the deciding factor for why the space station has survived to maturity.
Those were probably my biggest misgivings about the current program. When you read the awesome fanfare and plans with which the program was announced, it's easy to see why so many people love it, but the Constellation program, as pointed out by our Augustine graybeards, wasn't living up to the hype, and needed even more cash than Obama is giving the agency to get going.
With regard to the new program, It really is pouring in a lot of money into developing new capabilities. Whatever Obama's 8 year successor dreams up (moon, mars?), he will have a beefier toolbox to make his plans with. If Obama gets a advanced interplanetary propulsion (VASIMIR) and a matured heavy launcher and multiple commercial providers for crew to Low Earth Orbit by the end of his presidency... that would be so enabling-ly awesome.
The program of record would not do that.
So I'm excited about the new direction.
And by the way, for the first time since George Bush Senior, NASA's budget will see year over year increase. Clinton reduced the budget 7 out of his 8 years. George W funded NASA at lower levels than he himself established in the VSE in 2005. It's like getting a mortgage on your house that costs $2000 a month because your boss says that you are getting a raise, and then he doesn't give it to you, so you are stuck with your income of $1900. What happens to a space program in that situation? Crappy design. Behind schedule. COMPROMISE!
Rock on Obama's 2011 NASA Budget! May you live forever (Or at least through the Congressional process, which is run by a bunch of vote hungry short sighted sensationalists!)