…of the Augustine panel was today. Clark Lindsey has been keeping an eye on it.
[Update mid afternoon, Pacific time]
I don’t know what Bill White means in comments when he says that Jeff Greason “blew up the meeting,” but there is an old concept from the military (and later from the computer industry) called FUBAR: Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition (though some think that the first word may actually be something else…).
That’s a fair description of the US human spaceflight program, and has been, really, since the end of Apollo, if not before, at least in terms of being effective at getting humans into space in reasonable numbers. My New Atlantis essay was a long-winded way of saying that, with some recommendations for fixing it, which are probably politically unfeasible. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be pointed out.
[Update a few minutes later]
Bobby Block has a real-time report over at the Orlando Sentinel:
“We are on a path right now for a system on a close order of just double the budget to operate,” said panel member Jeff Greason of Constellation, which stemmed from President George W. Bush’s 2005 “vision” to return Americans to the moon by 2020 and then move on to Mars.
Greason added that if Santa Claus gave the program to the country fully developed, NASA would still have to cancel it because the agency could not afford to launch it.
Greason and former astronaut Sally Ride later questioned the utility of the Ares I rocket, which was supposed to launch humans to the international space station by 2015 but which now won’t be ready until well after the station is deorbited in 2016, as NASA currently plans.
Constellation has spent more than $3 billion in the past four years. And while the panel stopped short of recommending that the program be killed, it wasn’t immediately clear what financial solution it might suggest.
Presumably, they’re assuming that the administration is smart enough to draw their own conclusions…
[Update a few minutes later]
Clark has a late update:
Some discussion items that stand out include:
/– Agreed that splashing the ISS in 2015 is not realistic so all program options that include it will be eliminated.
/– The program of record (i.e. Ares I/V/Orion/Altair), which exceeds the expected budget substantially, will no longer be in the options table but kept separately just as a reference.
/– There will be two options that fit the expected budget. Others will assume growth up to $3B more than current annual budget.
/– A lengthy discussion of the Mars First option seems to have led to its removal. Instead the Lunar and Deep Space options will be presented as preparing the technology and in-space infrastructure for Mars missions later. The current baseline is far too expensive and any other scenario would involve too much sci-fi.
Emphasis mine. Bye bye, Constellation.
Here’s the chart of all the options being evaluated. There is no obvious weighting of the criteria, but to first order, all of the options seem to suck. There are a lot more negative numbers than positive ones. None of them are scored as sustainable. It really is an unsolvable Rubik’s cube. I don’t envy the panel members. Or the new NASA administration.
[Late evening update]
Commenters indicate that the numbers in the chart are changing in real time. As I noted above, I don’t envy the panel, or the new administrator and his deputy who have to implement whatever comes out of this process.