He says it’s critical.
I think he’s falling into a common myth here, though (the one promulgated by Margaret Lazarus Dean):
…people like to see new things happen. We’ve had ISS [the International Space Station] up there for years. It feels like, to the layman, that NASA hasn’t done anything really new, or accomplished anything very significant in a long time. Now building a big-ass space station is actually really hard. There’s also kind of a bruised national pride that we don’t have a manned spaceflight program anymore. I think you’ll see interest in NASA get rekindled once the Orion program [NASA’s latest manned capsule] gets up and running, and we actually start sending our own astronauts back into space without hitching a ride with the Russians.
We do have a “manned spaceflight program.” It’s called ISS and Commercial Crew. If Orion ever flies, it’s not the way we’ll be getting our own astronauts into space without hitching rides. That’s what Commercial Crew will do, if Congress doesn’t succeed in sabotaging it. Orion will look like an also-ran with all of the commercial activity that will be taking place by then.
And speaking of commercial spaceflight and the need to reduce costs, Alan Boyle discussed that subject with Lori Garver:
What’s the big technological innovation to watch for in space in 2018?
“Getting the costs down to get to space. That’s key, that’s been a barrier, and that is happening. Certainly by 2018 you will have multiple launches for a lot less money.
Clearly, Congress and NASA don’t agree. They think we need a big, expensive, obsolete-before-it-first-flies expendable rocket.
[Update a few minutes later]
Lee Billings: Why the first mission to Mars probably won’t look anything like The Martian:
NASA has no plans for a large, spinning cycler spacecraft between Earth and Mars, probably because such a spacecraft is considered unaffordable. In fact, ongoing squabbles in Washington over how to divvy up NASA’s persistently flat budget means that essentially all the crucial components for the agency’s planned voyages—the heavy-lift rockets, the power sources, engines and spacecraft for deep space, the landers, surface habitats and ascent vehicles—are behind schedule and still in early stages of development, if they are being developed at all. And the agency’s Journey to Mars could all go away, very quickly, at the whim of some future President or Congressional majority. Mired in the muck of politics, NASA may not manage to land even one crew of astronauts on Mars by 2035—let alone three.
It seem quite unlikely, absent a dramatic change in approach by the agency and the Congress.
And the planetary-protection issue is potentially a show stopper. We have to decide what’s more important: science, or settlement.
[Update a couple minutes later]
And here‘s the New York Times review:
The movie gently thumps several issues: It’s unambiguously on the side of science and rationalism with glints of manifest destiny, American can-do-ism and a little flag-waving folded in.
Well, that will piss off the SJWs.
Ed Lu says NASA isn’t dead, but it’s lost:
“The debate about humans versus robots is beyond stupid,” he said. “Moving people outward is the whole reason for going. Otherwise, what are we doing? What is the purpose of going if not to live, go places, do things, spread humanity?”
Unmanned missions are easier because you can do them one at a time and find success through scientific breakthroughs. Lu said manned missions, on the other hand, have to be planned with a broader strategy or you’re just “doing random stuff.” And that’s the piece NASA is missing.
Asked if he thinks we’ll get back to manned missions, Lu said he’s counting on the private sector to get us there.
That’s a safer bet.
Paul Spudis says that NASA’s Mars plans are delusional.
Yes. Yes they are.