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Henry Vanderbilt isn't very happy with NASA's exploration plans:
This Apollo redux has the same fatal flaw as Apollo: The specialized throwaway systems invented to get (back) to the Moon ASAP were (will be) far too labor-intensive at far too low a max flight rate to allow affordable followup. The new ships are not only based in significant part on existing Shuttle components and facilities, but they are to be operated in significant part by the existing Shuttle organization. IE, tens of thousands of people narrowly specialized in various aspects of flying a handful of astronauts on a handful of missions a year - at, by the time all this fixed overhead is added up, billions of dollars a mission.
Sadly, I find nothing at all here with which I can disagree.
[Update a few minutes later]
Aviation Week also says (correctly) that it's Apollo redux, and is skeptical about its political prospects.
...basically using a replay of the Apollo approach of the 1960s, with updated electronics.
And here's another problem:
Rewriting the exploration-hardware development plans drafted under his predecessor, Griffin will exert tighter control over hardware design, leaving much less to the imagination of the contractors and perhaps building the new vehicles in NASA facilities.
Shades of X-38...Posted by Rand Simberg at September 19, 2005 04:59 AM
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Just Another Apollo?
Excerpt: Mark Whittington thinks that the Vision for Space Exploration is not just another Apollo program, but Rand Simberg thinks it is. I'm more inclined to agree with Mark, as the VSE has a more permanent goals than Apollo. The purpose of Apollo was to b...
Weblog: The Star Spangled Cosmos
Tracked: September 19, 2005 02:10 PM
Griffin wanting tighter central control over exploration hardware design, oddly enough, doesn't look like a problem to us. This we see as essentially trying to recreate the old Redstone Arsenal approach, where Wernher & Co designed the rockets and contractors built what they were told.
It worked better than what NASA has done since, nominally have the contractors do design yet keep an entire NASA design establishment constantly looking over their shoulders and joggling their elbows. An arsenal approach would eliminate much of the duplication and in theory at least could make for a more efficient integrated operation. There's plenty of precedent for effective government arsenal engineering development organizations; NASA might in fact be better off going back to that model.
Of course, that leaves the question, can Mike Griffin fill Wernher von Braun's rather large shoes? We'd think the test a more realistic one if Griffin were to try a more advanced approach (like, say, orbital assembly of missions leading to reusable deep-space vehicles) rather than merely recreating the general system von Braun already made work forty years ago.
Hell we can just take it straight from the horses mouth:
"Think of it as Apollo on steroids," Griffin said. "It's a significant advancement over Apollo. Much of it looks the same, but that's because the physics of atmospheric entry haven't changed recently," he said. "...We really proved once again how much of it all the Apollo guys got right."Posted by Josh Reiter at September 19, 2005 11:18 AM
It's Apollo Redux, but unfortunately it's with Apollo's costs as well.
Looking for bright spots, this scheme may open opportunities in the future for other launch providers, or for companies providing cheaper transfer of bulk cargo to HEO or beyond (reusable solar-electric tugs, anyone?), to save NASA's bacon when the budgets get tighter.
But I'm probably being too optimistic.
Wow. Just shy of fifty years between the first moon landings and the projected new series. Just to give some further perspective, I wasn't alive when the LAST man lifted his foot from the moon, and I'm pushing thirty.
Posted by Peter at September 20, 2005 02:50 AM
I haven't talked to him on the subject recently, but my impression is that Bob Zubrin is about as likely to give up on a heavy lifter and go for orbital assembly of Mars expeditions as the new Pope is to take up Unitarianism. Bob has been, well, closely focussed on a new expendable heavy lifter for as long as I've known him.
That aside, when the first new NASA expedition finally lands on the Moon, what's the first message they're likely to get? "This is the Bigelow concierge. Would you like valet parking for that?"
3 steps forward, and 2 steps back!
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