…to the Augustine summary, over at NASA Watch.
[Early morning/late evening update]
I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’ve scanned the intro, to take a break from doing triage on my office before packing it up tomorrow. Two things jump out at me. First:
Can we explore with reasonable assurances of human safety? Human space travel has many benefits, but it is an inherently dangerous endeavor. Human safety can never be absolutely ssured, but throughout this report, it is treated as a sine qua non. It is not discussed in extensive detail because any concepts falling short in human safety have simply been eliminated from consideration.
If the sine qua non of the opening of the New World had been human safety, we would still be in Europe, wondering why we couldn’t return to the Caribbean forty years after Columbus’ first voyage. We would never have opened up the western United States, and we would not have settled California and built an aerospace industry that ultimately got us to the moon. This is a major fail on the part of the panel, for politically correct reasons.
Second, in the “five key questions to guide human spaceflight”:
3. On what should the next heavy-lift launch vehicle be based?
This, to me, is tragic. It is the primary reason that we remain stuck in LEO, forty years after Apollo. Note that the assumption is how should we build, not if we should build, a heavy lifter.
Norm (and I am assuming, based on comments he made in the public hearings, that this was driven by him), you disappoint me. But perhaps I shouldn’t have expected better from the old guard. This flawed assumption lies at the heart of the recommendations. I hope it won’t continue to be a stake in the heart of progress in human spaceflight, but I suspect it will. At least for government human spaceflight. Fortunately, others, who are spending their own money, won’t succumb to this continuing disastrous conventional wisdom.
We’ll see in good time what the administration’s response is.