NASA, Other

Examining alternatives to the Vision

In an article in this week’s issue of The Space Review, I look at a couple new alternatives to the current exploration plan, both the exploration roadmap by The Planetary Society announced last week as well as a brief paper by Neal Lane and George Abbey released last week by a progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The latter calls for keeping the shuttle flying until a replacement vehicle is ready as well as boosting investments in aeronautics and earth sciences, although they don’t discuss how much this will cost (at least a few billion a year for the shuttle alone, assuming it’s even feasible at this late stage) or where the money would come from.

Separately, and tangentially related to the new administration’s space policy, Taylor Dinerman advocates for bringing India into the ISS in a small way, starting with giving them control of an experiment rack on the station that might otherwise go unused or underutilized. That approach could inject fresh blood (and new resources) into the ISS program, and also help support US-India relations.

6 comments to Examining alternatives to the Vision

  • Hi Jeff –

    Here’s a plan
    1) Drop Ares 1 and go with Direct
    2) Drop the Flags and Footprints architecture and go with
    a fuel transfer depot in lunar orbit, along with landing frames.
    That not only provides the systems you need for development of
    the Moon, it allows other nations to share their costs
    3) Develop the Dragon capsule for the EELVs and Falcon 9 as another
    way of servicing the ISS. There’s really no need for 6 passengers on one spaceship when 2 3 man ships will do the job, as well as spread the risk,
    providing more options than relying on 1 vehicle
    4) In the meantime, use long range rovers to determine if Mars presents any back contamination problem

  • Adrian

    bringing India in would be great. cant believe they arent already involved actually. and somebody remind me what is so terrible about involving the Chinese?

  • Charles In Houston

    The Station administratively is WAAAY too complex now – bringing in a new International Partner would only serve to distract us to: train a new Partner, go see all the facilities of a new Partner, etc. Unused racks are due to inadequate crew time – and that is due to no crew return capability. We are better off to concentrate on remotely operated racks.

  • Joseph Hiddink

    I discovered and patented the power/propusion system that is used by Flying Saucers. Nasa Propulsion Engineers did not like it. Who would need them if we could fly to the Moon in an hour? The propulsion units like the ones used on a Flying Saucer, could be used on a Shuttle so that it will take off VTOL and fly to the Moon in a short time. Power is taken out of the aether. A flying Saucer does not use oil or nuclear power. It would not cost Billions. (Even if Dr. Kahn of the Hudson Institute told my Patent Lawyer that it would be worth $600 Billion if the USA had it before Russia).
    Tesla probably powered his Pierce Arrow Car the same way.
    Maybe someone will inform Mr. Griffin, I could never contact him.

  • Vladislaw

    “We would say at this point to back off from that, open up the architecture more, and have an international discussion about the contributions of landers and actual vehicles from other countries that will be going to the Moon,” he said. β€œIn that sense it would be different because it would be taking into account human mission aspirations of other countries.” Louis Friedman

    The only thing I would fear in this approach is we are placed into a position of dependence, much like with the situtation we find ourselves in with Russia. One the day of a moon landing and the use of the foreign owned lander they say ” oh by the way, we will be needing another 2 billion in order to land” Just the same way Russia jacked the prices for sending astronauts to the ISS.

    If we were contemplating a new science or something I could understand it. But this is like saying we want to build a new car ( something we have been doing for decades) and we really should have other countries involved.

  • COTSadvocate

    Since this thread is about “alternatives” the Space Frontier Foundation release from this morning is on topic.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=26969

    Will the Real Mike Griffin Please Stand Up?

    NASA Administrator Griffin Contradicts Own Congressional Testimony

    The Space Frontier Foundation today pointed out that NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin, in an interview with CBS News published last Friday, publicly contradicted his own 2003 testimony to Congress about the safety of flying humans on America’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs). “It’s one thing for Mike to argue that EELVs can’t send astronauts all the way to the Moon. But on Friday he claimed that EELVs are not safe enough, even for the easier job of launching astronauts to Earth orbit, and that’s just not true,” said Foundation Chairman Berin Szoka.

    “Just five years ago, Mike testified to Congress that EELVs were safe enough to launch astronauts to low Earth orbit. And the only thing that’s changed since then is that the Delta IV and Atlas V systems have, together, successfully flown 20 times,” Szoka added.

    In the CBS News interview published on Friday, November 14th, Dr. Griffin defended his plan to invest roughly $10 billion in taxpayer funding to create the new Ares 1 rocket, rather than using the existing, proven EELVs, saying “our selection was based first and foremost on crew safety …” But on May 8, 2003, Dr. Griffin testified to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, rejecting suggestions that EELVs were not safe enough for human spaceflight. Dr. Griffin declared that no additional precautions, beyond a safety abort system, were necessary.

    GRIFFIN: What, precisely, are the precautions that we would take to safeguard a human crew that we would deliberately omit when launching, say, a billion-dollar Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission? The answer is, of course, “none”. While we appropriately value human life very highly, the investment we make in most unmanned missions is quite sufficient to capture our full attention.

    Logically, therefore, launch system reliability is treated by all parties as a priority of the highest order, irrespective of the nature of the payload, manned or unmanned. While there is no EELV flight experience as yet, these modern versions of the Atlas and Delta should be as inherently reliable as their predecessors. Their specified design reliability is 98%, a value typical of that demonstrated by the best expendable vehicles. If this is achieved, and I believe that it will be, and given a separate escape system with an assumed reliability of even 90%, the fatal accident rate would be 1 in 500 launches, substantially better than for the Shuttle.

    “We’re already on record saying that the best way to close the impending gap in human spaceflight is to invest in new commercial crew systems, many of which would be launched on an EELV,” said Bob Werb, the organization’s co-Founder. “Now we’re saying NASA should launch its Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle on an EELV as well, instead of spending $10 Billion developing a brand new, EELV-class rocket.”

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