Once again, we have a pathetic defense of the current architecture, in which (following up on the Friday Griffin speech) we are once again assured that NASA looked at all the options, and this really is the best one, trust us. And once again, there is no data or supporting documentation or assumptions provided to support the bald assertions:
NASA looked at a wide variety of launch concepts — from the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (Atlas V, Delta IV), Space Shuttle (including Shuttle C, Direct type approaches and other solid and liquid rocket booster propelled systems) combinations, foreign systems and clean sheet designs.
The Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS) was chartered in the spring of 2005 to recommend a fundamental architecture for supporting International Space Station, Lunar and Mars transportation.
Using data from previous and ongoing studies (several hundred vehicles), and consisting of a team of knowledgeable experts from inside and outside NASA, this study compared many launch and staging options for safety, effectiveness, performance, flexibility, risk and affordability.
This reminds me of the last scene in the first Indiana Jones movie:
“We have top men studying this.”
Well, in this case, we know who the “top men” are — names like Doug Stanley, and Scott Horowitz, and Mike Griffin. But we still have never seen the actual process by which these top men came up with this travesty.
And they wonder why we don’t trust them.
Clark Lindsey responds:
Just to give my same old refutation in a different way, I’ll list the major weaknesses of the program as seen by someone who wants humanity to become genuinely spacefaring:
- Ares I/V/Orion will be stupendously expensive both to develop and to operate.
- Furthermore, these systems do not provide any technology development path towards future vehicles that would be less expensive to develop and operate.
- They do not contribute to the development of a robust in-space transportation infrastructure.
- And thus they do not lead to lower cost in-space transportation either.
- Even if Constellation performs as promised, the very modest lunar surface capabilities it provides will not compensate for its staggering costs.
- The opportunity costs will be enormous as well:
- Money going to Ares I/V will not go towards development of crucial technologies such as fuel depots, orbital tugs, in situ resource extraction systems, etc.
- And the money will also not go towards buying the services of commercial providers who would drive down the costs of spaceflight via the economies of scale arising from large scale delivery of propellants, components, and crews to orbit.
Now does NASA disagree with these characterizations of their plan, or do they disagree that these are worthwhile figures of merit? Do they think those conditions unnecessary to become spacefaring? Or do they think that our becoming spacefaring is unnecessary?
It must be one or the other, but these topics never even seem to be discussed.
[Update early afternoon]
It occurs to me that, sometime during the accumulation of all of his degrees, Dr. Griffin was likely to have been penalized (or at least warned about a penalty) for turning in an assignment requiring math and physics with just the answer, without showing his work, including assumptions. In fact, even if the answer is wrong (because, for example, you punched a calculator button incorrectly), you’ll often get partial (and in some cases even full) credit, because the most important part of the exercise is understanding the problem and how to solve it, not just coming up with an answer. I certainly had this drilled into me, and I don’t know anyone with a technical or hard science degree who did not.
All we’re asking of you, Mike, is to show your work, just like you did in school. You don’t get a pass on this just because you’re NASA administrator. Not even when you have multiple engineering and management degrees and are a “rocket scientist.”
[Monday morning update]
Architecture, not point design.