Editor's note: An effort to examine alternate approaches to NASA's current Vision for Space Exploration has been in the news of late. For every one of these efforts that makes the news, several others - also involving people of equal stature within the space community - are also underway albeit without nearly as much fanfare.
NASA will have a hard time arguing with some of the logic that enters into and emerges out of these activities. Some alternate architectures will be mostly science-driven whereas the VSE is destination/Presidential decree-driven. Some will be a hybrid - with commerical goals included.
All approaches will have merits. All will have weaknesses.
To be honest, I am a bit agnostic about the specific destinations so long as the policy is inherently logical, linked to a firm budget, politically realistic, linked to commercial opportunities, and harnessed to engineering reality - so long as the endpoint is expansion away from Earth in a self-perpetuating and sustaining fashion. If done properly, we'll eventually get to visit everything.
If we reset the VSE every election cycle I am a bit afraid that each reiteration will be weaker than the previous one - and that NASA will be (rightly) accused of having attention deficit disorder.
However, forces are aligning that seek to refine/replace George Bush's VSE - and there is not much NASA can do about this if the notion catches on - especially if this effort has the support of one or more of Bush's prospective successors.
The legacy we all should be thinking about leaving behind as we dabble in alternate visions must be how vibrant the notion of a "vision" for space exploration is. And in so doing, we must assure that whatever vision emerges and moves forth to become our nation's next iteration of space exploration quidance is able to morph and adapt to changing circumstances - such that the core notion of exploration and moving forward - and outward - is always retained.
Moon Stuck, Aviation Week
Examining the Vision - Balancing Science and Exploration (Draft agenda, speakers)
"10:00 - 11:30 Panel: Space Science as Exploration Moderator: Len Fisk Panelists: Wes Huntress, John Klineberg, Doc Horowitz, Owen Garriott"