London, Feb 25 (ANI): Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin has said in a draft paper that NASA needs serious reform or significant organisational overhaul.
According to a report in New Scientist, the draft paper, posted to the National Space Society blog, outlines a plan to replace George W Bush's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration, which called for returning astronauts to the Moon by 2020.
It outlines a plan that focuses on sending astronauts first to new targets, such as asteroids.
"A shorter version of the report will be released formally in a few days and sent to President Obama's administration for review," said Feng Hsu, the paper's primary author and an engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The report says that after the success of the Apollo lunar programme of the 1960s and 70s, "post-Apollo NASA" became a "visionless jobs-providing enterprise that achieves little or nothing" in areas such as the development of reusable or affordable launch systems.
The space shuttle, which costs about 450 million dollars per launch and requires a lot of maintenance, is one of a number of "wasteful projects with costly or unnecessarily complex and risky designs", according to the report.
The report says the agency's downturn may have been inevitable, since Apollo had been a well-funded programme designed to beat the Soviet Union in the space race.
"America's space program was destined to lose direction soon after winning the space race," the authors write.
They argue that NASA's new Constellation programme is at "high risk" for continuing this downward spiral.
The programme, which is developing rockets and an Apollo-inspired crew capsule to replace the ageing space shuttle, will send astronauts to the space station as well as the Moon.
According to the authors, crucially, it also "lacks strategic merit".
"There is neither significant (or short-term) science value nor space exploration and operation value in revisiting an Earth-orbit destination that was explored by mankind four decades ago," they said.
Instead, the authors say the US human exploration programme should focus first on sending astronauts to an asteroid or to L2, one of five gravitational 'sweet spots' around Earth's orbit.
There, spacecraft essentially could be parked so that they could keep pace with Earth on their orbits around the Sun.
The site, which is farther away than the Moon, could host a space-station-like outpost.
It could also act as an intermediate step on the way to Mars, where human missions could initially be sent to Mars's moon Phobos before landing on the Red Planet itself. (ANI)