The Vision For Space Exploration at NASA Has Almost Disappeared

- Beyond the Moon: Inside Bush's space plan (Part 1 of 3), 14 Jan 2004
- Beyond the Moon: Inside Bush's space plan (part 2 of 3), 15 Jan 2004
- Beyond the Moon: Inside Bush's space plan (Part 3 of 3), 16 Jan 2004

"The advantages were obvious. The new capsules would not require a huge new rocket like Apollo's Saturn V -- even though the Apollo capsules did. Instead, Bush's planners proposed using existing U.S. commercial Delta IV and Atlas V rocket boosters -- keeping the cost relatively low. Another way to enforce cost constraints was to hold open the possibility of using foreign boosters -- something that horrified U.S. launch firms like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Missions to ISS would be followed by flights to high Earth orbit -- above the Van Allen radiation belts -- then to the moon for 14 days. The lunar experience would then be expanded, possibly with a lunar base until technologies needed to mount more ambitious missions were developed. NASA's new moon ships also would carry a series of modules, propulsion stages and small cargo units that could be mixed and matched depending on the flight planned. One of the biggest drawbacks of the space shuttles has been their lack of flexibility. Designed for hauling large payloads and modules into space in their cavernous bays, they could not be reconfigured to bring up just a small amount of equipment. NASA has a space trucking fleet which new only one type of cargo: big."

Keith's note: In January 2004 Frank Sietzen and I broke the story about what would eventually become known as "The Vision for Exploration" in a series of articles in the Washington Times. We went on to write a non-bestseller "New Moon Rising" on the genesis of the VSE. It was an exciting time - one born out of the tragedy of Columbia's loss. Everyone seemed to be moving in the same direction. Looking back, I just wonder what would have happened if the original plan had been implemented as it had originally emerged.

Had it done so, by now we'd have seen the emergence of a mix of government and commercial assets, perhaps fuel depots and other in-space infrastructure all designed to provide true flexibility as to when and how to go to places we wanted to go. The hardware to send humans back to the lunar surface would already be under construction.

Instead we got "Apollo on Steroids" followed by SLS, the big rocket to nowhere. 10 years later and we are still a decade or so away from even thinking about getting close to putting humans near a place such as the Moon. This is not progress. This is an embarrassment.

- A Decade of the Vision for Space Exploration: An Alternative Retrospective, Paul Spudis, earlier post
- Going Beyond The Status Quo In Space, Dennis Wingo, Paul Spudis, Gordon Woodcock, earlier post

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 20, 2014 7:33 PM.

Rosetta Is Awake was the previous entry in this blog.

Hurry Up and Wait: NASA Is Not Planning to Use SLS Very Much is the next entry in this blog.

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