A Senate science subcommittee clashed with NASA's chief on Wednesday, saying the firm and the White House lacked a clear vision and goal for the program.
Skeptical senators told the space agency that it should not just talk about plans, but set out to do something specific. Lawmakers expressed a bipartisan opposition against the agency's plans and the initiatives of the Obama White house.
You don't accomplish great things without a clearly defined mission, and this budget has no clearly defined mission, said Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana.
Last month President Barack Obama's proposed cuts to the Bush administration's return-to-the-moon mission, leaving NASA with no clear goal or destination.
While the plan does increase the budget for the agency -- $6 billion over the next five years -- senators said the program needed to be about more than spending money, but instead driven with vision.
Resources without vision is a waste of time and money, Vitter said, calling the Obama space plan a radical change of vision and approach. He vowed to fight the plan with every ounce of energy I have.
NASA and White House officials were criticized for drafting plans that called for new propulsion systems without linking them to time lines for manned space missions. They were especially alarmed given the current manned programs are nearing retirement.
Senators specifically criticized Charles Bolden, the head NASA, for not being more assertive in establishing the agency's priorities.
We should develop the technology in pursuit of a goal, not the other way around, said senator Bill Nelson of Florida.
The President has to step out and take control, Nelson said of NASA's vision.