Griffin also suggested that the plan didn’t put much thought into the decision to defer a human return to the Moon in favor of a mission to a near Earth asteroid by 2025. The made that choice, he suggested, “apparently without realizing that the delta-V to get to almost all asteroids is higher than the delta-V to get to Mars” with similarly long travel times and limited launch windows. “In a number of ways reaching asteroids can be harder than reaching Mars.”
While I agree that it’s unlikely that much thought was put into the 2025 asteroid mission, this is disingenuous. No one said that we’re going to visit “almost all asteroids,” or even one in the main belt, so the velocity needed to get to “almost all asteroids” is irrelevant. All that really matters is the delta-V to get to the one that we choose, and there are many earth crossers with very low requirements.
On the subject of his comments about new technologies, I would expand on Clark’s critique. Mike says:
He was skeptical of the plan’s emphasis on “gamechanging” technologies to enable human space exploration. “Any time I develop a new technology I potentially change someone’s game,” he said. “Without a plan, I don’t know what game, I don’t know if it’s the game I ought to be changing, or if it’s a high-value game or a low-value game, but I’m going to change something, so it’s pretty easy to promise that I’ll do gamechanging technologies.”
He added that such technology development programs can be prime targets for future budget cuts, either by the Office of Management and Budget or in Congress. “The Congress surgically removes those programs and spreads the money to goals that they have in mind,” he claimed. “No congressman or senator ever gets credit for a technology program. Congressmen and senators get credit for projects.”
The first statement is simply gobbledygook (to be kind). It’s real simple, Mike. The plan is to explore the solar system with human beings. The current “game,” which you reinforced with Apollo on Steroids, deliberately eschewing the use of any new technology, is unaffordable and unsustainable, the complete opposite of what the Aldridge Commission recommended that the VSE must be. Any technology that dramatically reduces the development or operational cost, or increases the amount of activity that can be performed for a given cost, is a “game changer” and a high-value one. Deferring for now the development of heavy lifters and replacing them with propellant depots (as the Augustine panel members cited as a “game changer”) would be one example.
As for what congressmen or senators get “credit” for,” all he’s really saying is that unless it’s a big jobs program, it’s not politically sustainable. That is all the more reason to get the commercial people in the game as soon as possible, so that they can rely on things other than porcine motivations for continued space activity. And as the events of the past few months show, it’s clear that when the price per pound is astronomical, even pork can’t survive forever, even if it was accomplishing useful things toward the goal of opening up space, as Constellation was not. So given the choice between politically unsustainable hyperexpensive launchers and politically unsustainable useful new technologies, give me the technologies.