Clark Lindsey has some thoughts on two parallel universes, in which one has orders of magnitude higher costs than the other. As he notes, I too hope that the new administration will reside in the one with the low costs, but if it does, it will be fought tooth and nail by legislators to whom jobs are more important than either taxpayers’ money or progress in space.
[Update a while later]
I see that, amusingly, Mark Whittington is foolishly attempting to lecture his intellectual betters on matters that he doesn’t understand:
If the sole purpose of Ares/Orion was just to get people into low Earth orbit, Clark would certainly have a valid point. But the purpose of Ares/Orion is to get people into Low Earth Orbit in a vehicle (Orion) designed to go to the Moon. Dragon doesn’t have to go to the Moon. (Of course, imagining a Dragon that could do that, with the extra radiation shielding, the extra consumables, and so on would be an interesting thought experiment. Could a Falcon 9 Heavy still loft such a vehicle?).
There is vastly insufficient difference between a vehicle that goes to the moon and one that goes to LEO to justify the cost difference between Orion and Dragon. A lunar mission requires a) additional radiation shielding, b) twice the thickness of the entry heat shield and c) extra consumables (two of which he points out). That doesn’t translate into orders of magnitude in cost difference by any sane cost model. As for “lofting” it, it doesn’t need to be lofted in a single flight. Once you break out of the notion that you have to do everything in a single launch, it becomes easy to build both a spacious crew capsule, and a service module with abundant consumables. But Elon’s BFR follow on would even be able to “loft” it in one go, and I’d be willing to bet that he could get there on a billion dollars or less, extrapolating costs from Falcon 1 and 9 development. Again, this could be done at much less cost (both development and operational) than is currently planned for the Orion/Ares combination. What part of already spent ten billion on Ares without its even having passed a legitimate PDR, while Elon has only spent a small fraction of a billion does Mark not understand?
This is pork, not progress.
[Late afternoon update]
Now Mark says I (in addition to fantasizing that I claimed to be his intellectual better) that breaking up CM and SM would require three launches “in a short time.” No. They would require two launches, one for each system element, and one or many launches for propellant, but none of which, other than the CM launch, would have to occur in “a short time.” Propellant could be stored on orbit for an indefinitely long time with proper depot design, and there is nothing intrinsically in an SM that couldn’t allow weeks or months of on-orbit LEO storage.
I don’t know where this myth comes from. People who want to justify tens of billions for a heavy lifter, I guess.