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Senators: Obama Administration Scrubbed Space Launch System's Actual Costs

The Obama administration is taking another hit for its management of the nation's space program, from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Nelson, in a joint release with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas,claim the administration had concealed actual financial totals in order to keep the Space Launch System project from moving forward.

"A just-completed, NASA-commissioned independent cost assessment by Booz Allen Hamilton found that development of the Space Launch System, Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and complementary ground system was feasible within authorized funding levels and timelines," the two lawmakers stated in the release. "This was expected; NASA experts had verified and re-verified estimated costs several times.

"Rather than announce these results and move forward with development, the administration's budget office has kept the independent cost report under wraps. Instead, a wildly inflated set of NASA cost numbers was invented, based on an imaginary "acceleration" of SLS development. Under these contrived numbers, which were leaked in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, development costs were forecast to increase to $57 billion -- nearly double the amount that NASA and Booz Allen Hamilton agreed would be needed in the independent cost assessment.

"No one has proposed to accelerate development. We and others have -- repeatedly -- demanded that the administration's budget office simply follow the development plan that the president signed into law last year. It has been validated repeatedly, internally and externally (including the OMB-requested Booz Allen Hamilton report), as a sound approach for going forward and maintaining our leadership in manned space exploration. Accelerated development is a convenient myth. The White House should proceed immediately according to the reasonable, achievable development timetable embedded in federal law, and preserve America's pre-eminence in space."

This is not the first time Nelson, a one-time shuttle passenger, has harped on President Obama's handling of NASA.

In 2010, Nelson said the president made a mistake by terminating the Project Constellation, which was designated as the successor to the space shuttle program.

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