Sunday, August 24, 2008

Approach and Criteria

The approach advocated here allows NASA to vigorously meet the following 5 simple but crucial goals in an obvious, understandable way:

  1. Be relevant; address problems whose solution is important to the nation.
  2. Promote commercial space and international cooperation.
  3. Encourage “Cheap Access to Space (CATS)”.
  4. Address the central goals of the VSE: Security, Economics, and Science.
  5. Develop useful space infrastructure.

The position taken here is that these goals are sufficiently important to form the rationale for the space program. Although the Constellation approach to the VSE was devised with some of the same goals, the position taken here is that the approach outlined below offers much better prospects of addressing most or all of these goals.

The approach advocated here is base on the following 10 principles:

  1. Do not abandon exploration, including human and robotic missions to the Moon.
  2. Do not leave human spaceflight “stuck in Low Earth Orbit”.
  3. Human and robotic areas should complement, not oppose, each other.
  4. Use NASA’s strengths and existing infrastructure (e.g.: robotic exploration, ISS).
  5. Do not rely on a single system, such as a single space transportation system.
  6. Emphasize smaller, manageable missions and incremental, achievable progress.
  7. Plan flexibility to adjust given changes in national priorities and opportunities.
  8. Strengthen research and development (e.g.: NACA, New Millenium).
  9. Get some results quickly. Don’t leave the main payoff for 16 years.
  10. Earn broad support beyond the program’s workers and contractors through demonstrated usefulness. Earn support from businesses, other Federal agencies, States, educational organizations, and science and engineering organizations.

The position taken here is that these approaches offer an improved chance of success from political, technical, financial, and management perspectives than the Constellation approach.

The central decision suggested here is to replace NASA’s Constellation program to build NASA rockets and space transportation systems to return to the Moon with a new set of NASA missions and programs. As a result of this central point, for simplicity it will be assumed that, while not flawless, the other NASA programs (Science, Aeronautics, etc.) are appropriate and will be taken as a baseline. In several cases responsibilities will be suggested for these areas. It should be understood that these are new responsibilities and any associated funding would be new funding added to the current base in these areas.

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