This is a good overview of the issues involved in deciding to fly crew on the first flight. If they decide to do this, I don’t want to hear a single word about delaying Commercial Crew until it is “safe” enough.
[Update a while later]
Wow, never been a big George Abbey (senior) fan, but he’s calling for cancellation of SLS:
Abbey thinks the architecture of NASA’s future plans should be thoroughly examined and redrawn. It won’t even require a budgetary increase — just a smarter allocation of the currently available funding. For instance, he suggests scrapping the SLS program altogether. There’s too much redundancy in the heavy-lift rocket market — SpaceX is working on their Falcon Heavy, Blue Origin is busy developing the New Glenn booster, and United Launch Alliance is drawing up plans for a Vulcan rocket.
From his lips to Trump’s (and Congress’s) ears.
Another call to end SLS/Orion, over at Scientific American, from Howard Bloom:
If NASA ditched the Space Launch System and the Orion, it would free up three billion dollars a year. That budget could speed the Moon-readiness of Bigelow’s landing vehicles, not to mention SpaceX’s Falcon rockets and could pay for lunar enhancements to manned Dragon 2 capsules. In fact, three billion dollars a year is far greater than what Bigelow and Musk would need. That budget would also allow NASA to bring Jeff Bezos into the race. And it would let NASA refocus its energy on earth-orbit and lunar-surface refueling stations…plus rovers, lunar construction equipment, and devices to turn lunar ice into rocket fuel, drinkable water, and breathable oxygen. Not to mention machines to turn lunar dust and rock into building materials.
This new Moon program could be achieved within NASA’s current budget. In fact, members of the group I run — the Space Development Steering Committee — estimate the total cost of what I’ve described (Moon landings plus a permanent moon base) at ten billion dollars. That’s just three years’ worth of the money currently being funneled into the SLS and the Orion.
At some point, this will become conventional wisdom.
[Update a few minutes later]
Wayne Hale has a prescription for NASA that is politically impossible to fill. I’d note that there’s nothing new about this; many of us observed these problems in the 80s and 90s. It’s what happens to a bureaucracy when what it does is not nationally important, it’s captured by its customers, and Congress can do whatever it wants secure in the knowledge that none of it will affect an election.