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« Physics And Economics Of Launch | Main | OK, So I'm Not So Smart »

Stuck In Cis-Lunar Space

Instapundit points to a WaPo article about asteroid hunters.

It's a good article, and even points out that the popular notion of blowing them up with nukes doesn't make much sense, but it doesn't talk about it in the context of present space policy. In order to be able to control our fate with respect to extraterrestrial objects, we need to be a true spacefaring nation, with affordable reach not just beyond LEO to the moon, but to (in the president's words over a year ago) "Mars and beyond," with emphasis on the "beyond."

That unfortunately implies a level of activity that isn't allowed by the planned budgets for the VSE, at least if it's done business-as-usual, using existing launchers, or derivatives of them. Conventional cost models indicate that there is budget for another Apollo-like program, sending a few astronauts to the moon once or twice a year, into the third decade of this century (and millenium). That might be enough for some (though I think that it's not worth the money), but it surely isn't a path to get us in a position to deal with these kinds of threats, which I think should be one of the major justifications for the program.

Not to sound like a broken record (you young whippersnappers can run to ask your folks what that phrase means), but we simply aren't going to get the levels of activities necessary to drive down the costs to make things like this routine until we open up space to the market, whether the actual one, or an artificial one spurred by a recognition from NASA that they need to be getting a lot more for their money. If they go with the conventional aerospace wisdom, we're very likely to end up with an expensive lunar base with insufficient activity to justify it for the next twenty years, instead of a space station like that. We're also more likely to get clobbered, and be able to do nothing about it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 11, 2005 01:29 PM
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Do you mean that, taking into account inflation and changes in the real cost of hardware, NASA could fund another Apollo program? If so, how/where did you get the info?

Posted by ThePublicBeDamned at April 12, 2005 06:32 AM

From the ongoing exploration architecture studies.

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 12, 2005 06:40 AM

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