Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mars Society: 'Junk cost estimates' delivered to Augustine Committee threaten to sink NASA's human spaceflight plans

Ares V Heavy-Lift successor to Shuttle & Saturn
(NASA 2008)

Robert Zubrin, on behalf of The Mars Society, has published a claim that Aerospace Corporation delivered highly inflated cost estimates for completing NASA's Ares V heavy-lift booster to the U.S. Review of Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, headed by Norman Augustine.

The "Augustine Committee" is on deadline to deliver its "recommendations" to the Obama administration, August 31. Though NASA administrators do not expect to see the committee's full report before the end of September, the end of the present federal fiscal year, the committee membership has already hinted that there are no affordable manned spaceflight options within NASA's long-term budget.

The Committee may conclude NASA is $50 billion short, over the next decade and a half, according to some press accounts.

Aerospace Corporation's estimates, however, as to the cost of Ares V or Shuttle C configurations," Zubrin wrote, "have no scientific basis and have clearly been composed to make the case that human space exploration is unaffordable."

"Examining the Aerospace Corp's cost estimates," Zubrin wrote, "they claim an insane development cost of the Ares 5 heavy lift vehicle of $35 billion dollars and assign a development cost of $28 billion for a somewhat lower capacity Shuttle-C type launcher."

"Both of these incredible estimates are about a factor of 7 higher than what is generally believed in the industry to be necessary for the development of such systems," Zubrin wrote.

"In testimony delivered directly to the committee, SpaceX president Elon Musk offered to develop a heavy lift system for $2.5 billion," Zubrin wrote. "Lockheed Martin presentations estimate the cost to develop a heavy lift (150 tons to Low Earth Orbit) launcher at $4 billion."

Zubrin strongly criticises the methodology used by Aerospace Corporation to estimate the continued developmental and, eventually, the operational costs for Ares V, and he also makes his case for Mars as a singular goal of manned spaceflight.

Read Zubrin's Statement HERE.

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