Augustine Panel Gives Orbital Fuel Depots a Look

Fill ‘er up… Space?

The panel reviewing NASA’s long-range plans is giving a new boost to the old idea of setting up orbital fueling stations for spaceflight. If the space agency and the White House go down that route, it would mark a dramatic change in direction for future journeys beyond Earth orbit.

Some would say that’s just what the nation’s space effort needs.

The idea of setting up a permanent infrastructure for travel in deep space was floated on Thursday during a hearing in Cocoa Beach, Fla., conducted by the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee.

Panel members who have been focusing on future travel beyond Earth orbit spoke favorably of the fuel-depot idea, and it’s likely to appear as one of the options in a final report that’s due by the end of August. It will be up to NASA and the White House to decide which option to pursue and how much money to spend. (The current ballpark figure is $80 billion over 10 years.)

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