Monday, May 12, 2008

Has Mike Griffin given in to the commercial manned spaceflight solution?

The Lunar Pioneer asks, "why stop there?" (Return to Taurus Littrow)

The rumor mongers would have you believe NASA administrator Mike Griffin is steadfastly opposed to NASA funding for commercial space beyond cargo.

And then, only as a stop-gap for a worrisome impending dependence on Roscosmos to keep the International Space Station actually doing science after the retirement of the Shuttle in 2010; plans that call for a Gap in manned spaceflight - after only eight more flights (with two contingencies), and then nothing for our astronauts to do but busy themselves until Orion Block One is ready to fly on the problematic "Stick," the Ares 1, in 2015.

COTS, the Commercial Orbital Transport System, is presently dominated by SpaceX, and the vendor is far along in development of commercial boosters Falcon 1 and 9, but claims readiness to convert America's commercial version of ESA's ATV into a manned vehicle.

And its budget time, once again, with a Congress controlled by a generally-hostile post-modern Democrat Party ready to trade NASA in for an apparently already inaugurated "President Obama's" federal child care dreams, and indefinitely delaying the Vision for Space Exploration while generally driving a stake through the most evident symbol of American Exceptionalism.

Bureaucrats everywhere are delaying badly needed systemic changes in anticipation of November's election and NASA is no exception.

Unilaterally, however, Mike Griffin may be floating a sudden willingness to support commercial competition in manned spaceflight, talking of an offer of $500 million to boost development of a manned commercial orbiter, the next Space Shuttle, with a smaller design following after the post-Columbia separation of cargo and crew.

It would be taking up where the first space shuttle designs left off, before the mouse designed by a committee became the never-fulfilled promise an elephant-sized Space Shuttle, and more the natural successor to the original dreams for a manned and reusable manned LV, from the era before Apollo.

From London and The Times Online, we have this hint given in a speech by NASA's Admin given in Jo'berg, South Africa, and an idea Griffin may have wished floated well off the beaten track.

If this is a new willingness on the part of Griffin and NASA's directorates, not to mention the FAA, to consider further commercialization and competition in American manned spaceflight, here's hoping it's not "too little, too late."

Beyond this, as the above illustration suggests, why stop there?

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