In Today's news, NASA finally announced their plans for getting back to Luna Firma. However, I was shocked at the price... now... hold your pinky finger against the side of your mouth with your thumb down... like Dr. Evil does and repeat after me.... ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS!
I've done a lot of work with NASA over the years and I have to point out a few things I see in this. The most obvious is that MOST of the technology being "developed" is simply a repurposing of existing technology... take the main boosters for the Crew Exploration Vehicle... it's nothing but an SRB from the Shuttle program... and the second stage is nothing but an engine from the Shuttle. But, you say, the heavy lifting will be done by a new booster... not really... it's also a development of the shuttle program... it'll be a modified main tank (you know... the one that keeps loosing it's cool.) They're actually going to strap 6 or 7 SRB's on that thing - that should make for a spectacular show if it fails.
Now, remember, the SRB's were the main cause of the Challanger disaster. Yes, they are man rated, but I'm not aware of any man rated rocket relying solely on an SRB to launch a man into space. That'll be interesting. I do like the fact that they are going back to a relativly safe way to get people into orbit... they even have a launch escape system... which was proven by the Russians a number of years ago. I'm curious of their landing system... Airbags... gosh... I hope they work everytime!
Come to think of it... what new technology are they going to develop with this $100 Billion??? Oh, yeah, it will be bigger... so what? I still can't see it adding up to $100 Billion. If Mr. Rutan and his gang of homebuilders was able to put a man in space for only $20 Million, imagine what he could do if we gave him a couple billion... I'd imagine he could get someone to the moon and back and save us a bunch in the process. You see, in the 60's, the space program funded a bunch of innovative technologies that didn't exist... well, we already have sufficient technology to get to the Moon... remember, we already did it 6 times. I doubt that we will reap the same ratio of benefits from that past program with this new program.
Heck... why invent all new technology (or figure out how to use Shuttle technology for Lunar missions) when we already have a very successful design for getting to the Moon and back... remember the Saturn series of Rockets that were used for the Apollo Moon Landings? Let's just build a few more of these bad boys... not a single one ever failed... (Apollo 13 failed due to a command module failure - not the Saturn rocket itself.) The rocket is big enough... simple construction... remember it's 1960's technology... kind of like the Russian Soyuz system... simple means very reliable. They can easily be updated with new electronics and engine improvements - which would easily give us the new lifting requirements for the next missions.
Anyway, I think it's time this country starts to rethink NASA. It's time to stop relying on the Government agencies to do "incredible" things like this. They did it 35 years ago... now it's time for industry to step up to the plate. Let's let the free market system put men on the moon... If NASA want's to show off, skip the Moon and go directly to Mars... $100 Billion for that... sure, but not for the Moon again. NASA has a finite budget... and they're doing the worst thing imaginable in my opinion... they're actually forgetting what it is that NASA stands for... National Aeronautics and Space Administration. They're tasked with inventing new technology... not rehashing old stuff. By the way, my one other beef with NASA is that the second A in NASA stands for Aeronautics... as in Airplanes... you know non exoatmospheric vehicles. Why is it that their budget is so out of balance towards space when 99.99% of the population could really benefit from some advances down here?