Sorry, but we can’t afford to do both. I disagree with this OC Register Op-Ed by Peter Navarro, Stu Witt, and Greg Autry:
At least to date, the private space sector has demonstrated very limited capability to move either cargo or crews into orbit or to dock with anything. Moreover, none is human-rated for orbital space flight while there are very difficult challenges requiring large infrastructure and access to larger investment.
Really? Atlas and Delta have “very limited capability to move cargo into orbit”? I think that the military satellite community will be wondering where all those satellite went, if not into orbit. As for docking, SpaceX plans to demonstrate that this year. It’s not like it’s just a twinkle in their eye. Crew will be along shortly after that, with the development of launch abort systems, and long before Ares I is projected to be complete.
We believe all these limitations can be overcome if the private space industry is encouraged along the lines of Mr. Obama’s plan. However, pressing matters of national security also call for a continued U.S. government presence in space. That’s why we believe Mr. Obama was dead wrong in cancelling the Constellation program, the successor to the shuttle program developed after the shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.
While we have been winding down our space program, other countries – China, in particular – have been working on (and, with China, even testing) capabilities to weaponize space and seize a strategic position on the moon. To prevent this, we must present a credible deterrent with ongoing robust and responsive manned and unmanned space programs. That’s why Constellation remains important, both as a concrete program now and as a bridge to a cooperative public-private space partnership.
Obviously, there are national security implications for a US government presence in space. But not for a manned presence. There have been no national security implications for that in forty years. And if it’s a national security issue to put humans in space, then the Pentagon should be responsible for and paying for it, not NASA, which is a civilian program. And how having a launcher that costs a couple billion per flight and can only fly a few times a year contributes to national security remains unexplained, even if one really believes that the Chinese are “working on seizing a strategic position on the moon” (what does that mean?).
They go on with the standard flawed and failed spinoff argument. And then this:
What we do not need is what President Obama is leaving us with: Showing up at the doors of countries like Russia and China, begging for a lift up to our space station. To paraphrase President Ronald Reagan: “Weakness invites aggression.”
Hey, I’m not a big fan of relying on the Russians either, but you know when the time was to complain about that? First, six years ago, when Bush baked it into the policy cake for at least three years, and then four years ago, when Mike Griffin increased the gap with his disastrous decision to build a whole new horrifically expensive and unnecessary launch system, instead of finishing Steidle’s plan for a CEV flyoff that would have resulted in something (and possibly two somethings) that could have flown on existing vehicles. The one person whose fault it isn’t is Barack Obama’s, and going back to the Program of Record doesn’t fix that problem.
There’s a lot of discussion about this over at Space Politics, where I found the link.