London, April 30 (ANI): NASA's acting administrator, Chris Scolese, has told lawmakers that the agency will probably not build an outpost on the moon as originally planned.
According to a report in New Scientist, Scolese's comments also hinted that the agency is open to putting more emphasis on human missions to destinations like Mars or a near-Earth asteroid.
NASA has been working towards returning astronauts to the moon by 2020 and building a permanent base there.
But, some space analysts and advocacy groups like the Planetary Society have urged the agency to cancel plans for a permanent moon base, carry out shorter moon missions instead, and focus on getting astronauts to Mars.
Under Scolese's predecessor, Mike Griffin, the agency held firm to its moon base plans.
But, the comments by Scolese, who will lead NASA until President Barack Obama nominates the next administrator, suggest a shift in the agency's direction.
NASA's agenda was hinted at by Scolese when he spoke to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations.
Scolese was asked repeatedly whether NASA could still make it to the moon by 2020 under the proposed 2010 budget, but failed to give a clear yes or no, and his answers suggested the agency's plans were in flux.
"We were looking at an outpost on the moon, as the basis for that (2020) estimate and that one is being revisited," he said.
"It will probably be less than an outpost on the moon, but where it fits between sorties, single trips, to the moon to various parts and an outpost is really going to be dependent on the studies that we're going to be doing," he added.
"Recall (that) the Vision (for Space Exploration) was not just to go to the moon as it was in Apollo, it was to utilize space to go on to Mars and to go to other places," said Scolese.
Scolese's further comments hinted that the agency's plans might shift to include a greater emphasis on destinations beyond the moon.
According to him, "So what I would like to see from NASA over time is an architecture that will give us flexibility for taking humans beyond low-Earth orbit and allowing us to have options for what we can do at the moon as well as other destinations like Mars or an asteroid, so that there are options on what we do in 2020," he said. (ANI)