The Dream Was ONLY a Dream
These were the plans NASA spent four years and $9 billion developing. But the current administration threw a fly in the ointment. In May of last year. President Obama appointed a panel to review NASA’s plans for continued.U.S. manned presence in space. Bear in mind, even with the Constellation project, America would go five years without a manned presence once the shuttle retired. Current plans call for us to hitch a ride on Russian rockets to get to the ISS!
The President's panel, the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, Popularly known as the Augustine Panel, issued its report in September. It was not enthralled with the Constellation program. While the report is couched in typical govermentese, the Committee basically proposed that NASA turn the development and building of the next generation of launch vehicles and spacecraft over to the commercial sector—or develop an international consortium similar to the way the ISS was constructed to develop and build the new ways into space.
That sounds fine on the face of it, but many pointed out flaws in the thinking. Dr. Michael Griffin, former NASA Administrator and now Professor at the University of Alabama Huntsville, asks simply “What commercial sector?"
He notes the only commercial space vehicle capable of launching the Orion is the European Space Agency’s Ariane, and he points out even that agency admits it would take years to man rate the vehicle.
And he brought up a deeper question. Is the U.S. willing to give up independent access to space? Ironically, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford (D), Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, had no use for the report at all.
“I don’t see the logic of scrapping what the nation has spent years and billions of dollars to develop in favor of starting down a new path developed in haste and which hasn’t been subjected to any of the detailed technical and cost reviews that went into the formulation of the existing Constellation program.
As far as I can tell, the Constellation program’s only sin is to have tried to implement a very challenging program with an inadequate budget."
In fact, the report does agree to a reasonably aggressive manned planetary program, going back to the moon first, then on to Mars. And it acknowledges that the program has suffered from inadequate funding, estimating that an additional $3 billion a year would be needed to bring the program up to speed.
But Obama decided to ignore that part of the report, and effectively end America's manned presence in space.
Still, the private sector has come through with a means for American astronauts to return to space with the development, and successful test of SpaceX's Falcon 9 LV and Dragon spacecraft.