Category Archives: Space History

NASA’s Mars “Plan”

Anatoly Zak has a report on Gerstenmeier’s recent announcement.

I’d say it’s more a delusional long-term vision than a plan. As I quoted Dale Skran in my anti-Apolloist screed from last summer:

…the NRC report is based on the unstated assumption that over the entire period considered, all the way out to 2054, there will be essentially no progress in rocketry other than that funded by NASA exploration programs, and that for the entire period the SLS as currently envisioned will remain the preferred method for Americans to reach space. It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely foundation for the planning of future space efforts than this. [Emphasis added]

And yet NASA continues to do so, because it has no choice, because Congress refuses to let it do it sensibly.

They are proposing a 20+ year plan. As I’ve noted in the past, even Mao never tried for more than five. Think back to 1996. Who would have predicted that, twenty years later, we’d have Internet billionaires building and flying vertical reusable launch systems? Or plans for private space facilities? Or the beginning of assembly of large structures in space? The notion that any plan for human exploration of the solar system that NASA has will survive contact with technical and budgetary reality of the next twenty years is ludicrous. But Apolloism marches on.

Getting Over “Apolloism”

I’m heading back to California tomorrow, for the first time in about six weeks (the longest I’ve been away from home since I moved back in 2009), but meanwhile, my long-awaited piece in The New Atlantis is on line.

[Update a few minutes later]

Sorry, that’s just a preview, unless you’re a subscriber. The full piece will be free on line in the future, but I’m not sure when.

Light Blogging, And Reusability

Things have been kind of quiet on the blog because a) I’m still busy renovating the house in Florida and more importantly, b) my bandwidth is limited here, as there’s no Internet service to the house, and I have to rely on tethering to my phone.

I didn’t post about it at the time, but my Twitter followers know that I drove up to the Cape on Saturday afternoon, with a press pass to the SpaceX launch early Sunday morning. It was the first Falcon launch I’ve seen on the east coast (I did see one pass through the clouds at the January Vandenberg launch).

It was impressive. I don’t know what the quantity distance is for that vehicle, but we were on a causeway in the middle of the Indian River at CCAFS, and I think the pad was only a couple miles away, judging from the time that I saw the ignition and started to hear (and feel) the roar. It was sufficiently bright that it temporarily shut down the center of my retinas, but I could see it all the way downrange past staging. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rocket naked eye that far downrange. It was very impressive, but I hope it becomes routine, including the landing, if it hasn’t already. The next step is to start reflying those stages that they continue to collect (six now). I told John Taylor that SpaceX now has a bigger fleet of reusable rockets than NASA ever had.

Speaking of which, Stephanie Osborn has a guest post from a fellow former NASA colleague with thoughts on the failure of reusability of the Shuttle.

I think that whether single pour or the selected segmented design, solid rockets on a reusable crewed vehicle were a mistake. And the fact that Jim Fletcher was head of NASA (and “Barfing Jake” Garn) is also part of the explanation for building them in Utah, Florida’s environmental regulations notwithstanding.

But as I’ve noted in the past, it’s a huge fallacy of hasty generalization to attempt to draw lessons about reusability of spacecraft from that program.