Jeff Foust talked to Neal Lane last weekend, who remains as misguided and illogical as ever:
“People don’t care about going back to the Moon and there’s no rationale for going back to the Moon. I would really like to see NASA go forward in a big way and have a larger and more exciting space program. But right now there’s not the support for it, and NASA’s flailing.”
That’s why, he said, he and Abbey decided that NASA would be better advised to focus on “solving the energy problem” and build public support for the agency that could be leveraged for other missions in the future. “If we keep blowing all our money on Constellation there will be nothing left,” he said. “Our hope was to put something out there that would actually be good for NASA, helpful, and give it a solid foundation to build from again until the American people get excited again about space exploration.”
He seems to be stuck in a mindless false choice between continuing with Constellation as is, or forgetting about space (other than his asteroid plans, which would require much of Constellation, other than the lunar lander, at least functionally). If NASA isn’t going to do space, there’s not much reason for it to exist. We already have government agencies responsible for energy and the environment, and there’s no reason to think that NASA personnel have any unique expertise in these areas. What would be the point of redirecting the agency in a direction that has little do with its charter or experience when it would simply be redundant? This is policy foolishness.
Lane said he hasn’t gotten any feedback from the Obama Administration about the study, but he believes that the administration will change course from the current exploration architecture. “I think it’s clear since Mike [Griffin] left that they don’t intend to go down the same road,” he said. “If you were going to just continue, why not keep him in, right?”
Wrong. Or rather, right, but not because they won’t stay the course in terms of goals. There are many ways to have a robust (and even much more robust) space program besides Constellation. Changing course can mean changing how we’re doing things, not changing the fact that NASA is going to do manned spaceflight.