WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Lake Dallas, TX
NASA could be Obama's greatest success.. if he doesn't screw it up.
After to 2005 Columbia disaster, President Bush called for a new space architecture that would put humans back on the moon and set us up for a journey to Mars. The plan was grand and the successor to the Space Shuttle seemed like a sensible solution.
But then he promptly decided to not bother funding it. He was also on board with NASA trashing $100BILLION the International Space Station in 2015
Before taking office, President Obama promised a total review of NASA's manned space activities. To that end, he created the Augustine Commission. It actually looked like President Obama (and admitted fan of NASA) was on the cusp of doing something great with NASA. But the question is, will he? The answer is starting look like, NO.
Here is what is being reported for President Obama's plans and my comments on them. None of this is set in stone and still needs congressional approval.
- Retire the Space Shuttle in 2011, as currently planned.
IMO, this has to be done anyways. The Shuttle airframes are simply too old. The Shuttle has some great capabilities but it also cost about $1BILLION per flight.
- Cancel the Constellation program for Lunar exploration (including the Ares I and V rockets, the Orion capsule, and the Altair lander)
Ares I and V are quickly becoming boondoggles. Almost $5BILLION has been spent on Ares I alone and all we have to show for it is a fake rocket. The original plan was to reuse as much Space Shuttle equipment as possible for these two rockets. Instead we are ending up with two totally new designs that simply "look" like they came from Space Shuttle parts. It has been estimated that a single Ares 1 launch will cost almost $1BILLION (with a B)
- Handle all access to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) through commercial entities
Now this is a home run. Basically they are looking at a competition to provide manned launch services to NASA for access to the Space Station. The most likely winners in this are either SpaceX or Lockheed. SpaceX is the likely winner because they already have a rocket and space capsule. They just need to complete an escape system so that they can start using them to carry people. SpaceX has done a great job in keeping their costs under control and estimates put launches of their Falcon 9 rocket at about $30MILLION per launch (with an M). That is a huge cost savings. The REAL rocket is finished and prepping for its first test flight as soon as this March. The cost for developing that rocket was $1BILLION but a good chunk of that money came from the private sector. IMO this is a real win that will start opening space travel to real world business in the future..
- Replace the cancelled Ares V rocket with a heavy lift rocket that is truly derived from the Space Shuttle
There are several options for this but the one gaining favor is called Jupiter 246 which uses the Space Shuttles main engines, the External Tank, and Solid Rocket Boosters. The main changes would be that the engines are placed below the Tank and the nose of the tank is modified for either cargo, a manned craft, or an upper booster.
- Extend the International Space Station to 2020 and possibly beyond
Yea, it would be kinda stupid to let a $100BILLION space station just burn up in the atmosphere.
- Instead of going to the moon, NASA would go just about everywhere in the inner planets of the Solar System (Moon, Mars, Venus, asteroids) but NOT land there
Go but not land. On the surface that sounds kinda dumb. But it really isn't. To do this would require an architecture for transporting people and/or equipment all over. Perhaps a fairly large (and multi use) spacecraft. Landers could be developed later as the need arises. The main point is to develop technologies that will push mankind beyond LEO. But still, this part lack direction and definition...
So what's my problem with this? It seems that President Obama is going to propose all of this but not actually fund it. Once again, he's going to do EXACTLY what GWB did. I wonder if he'll blame him for it too. President Obama's budget is calling for a modest increase in NASA's budget but nothing that would push forward with the development of anything here EXCEPT the commercial spaceflight part...
Meanwhile we're spending tax payer money ($2.8BILLION) on high speed rail between Tampa and Disney world. Yea, that will provide a few jobs but are those really the kinds of jobs we want to push our country forward? We just spent TRILLIONS bailing out the banks, how about fixing our space exploration program so that we actually go do some exploring?
As I stated, none of this is in stone. IMO, the administration could be floating these ideas to see what the response is. Most of the response hasn't been that good. Also, the Ares I and V have some VERY powerful backers in the Senate. The current budget states that those two projects may not be canceled without Congressional approval. So we might just be right back where we started. We shall see..