One of the first steps in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) efforts to implement the President's plan to return humans to the moon and prepare for eventual human space flight to Mars is the development of the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle. In 2005, NASA outlined a framework for implementing the President's plan and has awarded contracts for Ares I and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle it is designed to send into space. It plans to conduct the first human space flight in 2015. However, the agency is seeking to speed development efforts in order to reduce the gap in our nation's ability to provide human access to space caused by the Space Shuttle's retirement in 2010. GAO was asked to assess NASA's progress in developing the knowledge needed to make sound investment decisions for the Ares I project. GAO's work included analyzing Ares I plans, contracts, schedules, and risk assessments.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|National Aeronautics and Space Administration||The NASA Administrator should direct the Ares I project manager to develop a sound business case--supported by firm requirements, mature technologies, a preliminary design, a realistic cost estimate, and sufficient funding and time--before proceeding beyond preliminary design review (currently planned for July 2008) and, if necessary, delay the preliminary design review until a sound business case demonstrating the project's readiness to move forward into product development is in hand.|