While the Augustine committee wraps up its final report, NASA hasn’t been standing still waiting for it. In an article in Monday’s issue of The Space Review, I wrote about Bolden’s statements in his Space Transportation Association speech on Thursday about what NASA’s internal planning:
While the Augustine committee did its work this summer, Bolden said that a NASA “leadership team” has also been studying exploration, focusing initially more on “why” rather than “how”. That team, including associate administrators and center directors, has been meeting by telecon for the last couple of months, three days a week for up to three hours at a time. “We started with asking the question ‘why': why do we do this?” he said. “Why do we risk human life in the exploration of space?”
Bolden didn’t say what answers the team came up with during the meetings, but did state that the team has moved on to the question of how to carry out human space exploration. That, he said, was a different approach from the Augustine committee, which he felt focused more on technical architectures than on the reasons why (although the committee did take up the question internally, as Jeff Greason, a committee member, recently noted.) “When you get stuck with architecture, you can do bad things,” Bolden said. “You really want to find out why you want to do something, and then ask yourself if this is what we want to do, how do we best accomplish it?”
Bolden said the team has been “migrating to a position that we want to recommend to the president,” without offering any specifics about what that might be.
While Bolden didn’t mention any specifics in Washington, he did let slip a few details about what might be included on Monday at the IAC in Daejon, South Korea, Flightglobal.com reports. Bolden was clearly interested in developing a heavy-lift vehicle, saying that NASA was “costing” such a launcher, which the report believes is the Ares 5 “Lite” vehicle mentioned in the Augustine committee report instead of a shuttle-derived alternative or even simply re-estimating the development cost of the Ares 5 itself. He was also cool to using EELV-derived vehicles, saying that they “are not man-rated [and] they are middle class”, according to the Flightglobal.com report.