For those not backers, but interested in what’s happening, I did a project update this morning:
I’m starting to spool up on the project (I expect to actually be funded this week — there’s a two-week delay after the close). Leonard David has a report today that the “Affordable Mars Strategy” report has been published and is available for free download [note: I haven’t actually been able to find the download — all I could find at Leonard’s link was Scott Hubbard’s op-ed — but I think I have the report]. I’ve also been in communication with the authors (specifically, John Baker and Nathan Strange at JPL), and received a lot of material from them last week (some of which may be redundant with the report). I’m planning a trip to Denver next week to (among other things) talk to folks at ULA about integrated vehicle fluids and propellant depots.
The JPL work will provide a foundation for my own analysis, and I’ll probably be discussing it with them. While I think they have a good solution for what they perceive to be their problem, I have fundamentally different top-level requirements.
I would characterize their approach as “Apollo to Mars”: A destination, a date, civil-servant boots on the ground, with a giant government-owned-and-operated rocket, except (unlike Apollo) it is budget constrained. I don’t think that will be any more economically and politically sustainable than Apollo was. I also think, bluntly, as a taxpayer and space enthusiast, that it would not be worth the money.
My approach is to get NASA completely out of the earth-to-orbit business, and to take the savings to develop the technology needed to build a scalable in-space reusable, resilient, affordable transportation architecture, that will enable not simply NASA, but anyone else who wants to, to go to the Red Planet.
And not just to Mars.