NASA's moon plans are a budget bluff -- at best, a cipher for a space policy to be named later, once the political landscape has shifted and it will be possible finally to pull the plug on the shuttle, the space station and NASA's whole failing model of human spaceflight. What will cause this shift in the landscape? Successful private space endeavors -- which, despite setbacks, through trial and error and animal spirits, will begin to show that men and material can be moved off the earth and into orbit affordably by spreading the cost over many flights, routinely undertaken. Only then can the next stage of manned space exploration really start. Hence a powerful line of criticism aimed at NASA from the non-usual suspects. NASA's program has a "fundamental unseriousness about it," complains Rand Simberg, a former aerospace engineer, at his Web site Transterrestrial Musings. "A serious program would be based on a foundation of an
Monday, October 10, 2005
NASA the dinosaur
NASA, the National Aeronautic and Spac Administration, has unveiled a bold plan to put men back on the Moon in 13 years - that's 2018. The first time took 9 years. Now with 40 years' experience and far more advanced knowledge and manufacturing, we will take 50% longer? But read the fine print. The Moon is a step on the way to Mars. Going to the Moon will really be test flights (Is traveling in space flying?) for the procedures and hardware to get to Mars. But, still, why so long? Lots of people are asking and some are saying: Don't wait for the dinosaur. Let's do it ourselves. Private space ventures are the cheetahs. They care less about how big the organization chart is focus on the goal. We have already seen Burt Rutan and Paul Allen;s Space Ship One fly into space twice in one week. And it was installed in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum last week next to the Spirit of St. Louis. But their design concentrates on getting people to the edge of space, not to Earth orbit or beyone. But other entrepreneurs are aiming higher and their designs will be more suitable for earth orbit. (I need an example.) Holman Jenkins has good coverage in the Wall Street Journal. Subscription required, I am afraid.