First Look

Jeff Foust (who also has a summary of the current political state of play over at The Space Review today) has some initial budget numbers:

That building block approach includes heavy-lift launch vehicle R&D, “vigorous” technology development work in areas like automated rendezvous and docking and propellant transfer, and a “steady stream of precursor robotic exploration missions”.

For those who foolishly think that this new direction is the “end of human spaceflight” or even “the end of human spaceflight beyond LEO,” what do they think that those precursors are for? Not to mention the tech development work?

I guess, to them, that if you’re not repeating the folly of Apollo, you’re not doing “real” human spaceflight.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s the OMB document (doesn’t look like a permalink, though):

NASA’s Constellation program – based largely on existing technologies – was based on a vision of returning astronauts back to the Moon by 2020. However, the program was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies. Using a broad range of criteria an independent review panel determined that even if fully funded, NASA’s program to repeat many of the achievements of the Apollo era, 50 years later, was the least attractive approach to space exploration as compared to potential alternatives. Furthermore, NASA’s attempts to pursue its moon goals, while inadequate to that task, had drawn funding away from other NASA programs, including robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observations. The President’s Budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration.

Killing off a dead end and reinvesting in something that actually has a hope of achieving the goals. Gosh, what a concept.

One thing that’s not clear yet, absent more perusal. When they say cancel Constellation, does that include Orion? Not that I’d cry, but I’m curious. Orion’s requirements, after all, are integral with the Constellation architecture, which is clearly dead now, so the program will need some rethinking regardless.

And is this just the opening position in a budget battle with Congress, with it and perhaps some kind of heavy lifter as bargaining chips?

[Update a few minutes later]

Bobby Block has more analysis over at The Write Stuff:

The flagship enterprise will be developing on-orbit refueling and automated approaches and docking technologies.

…Lots of parallels are being drawn with how the federal government used mail contracts to develop the aviation industry.

So far, I’m liking pretty much everything I’m seeing.

[Update mid morning PST]

Clark Lindsey has some notes from the announcement. This is a huge breath of fresh air, at least so far. Which is not to say it’s perfect, but it can be a long way from that and still a huge improvement over the previous plans.

[Update a couple minutes later]

A summary from George Herbert, over at the Arocket list:

Well, it’s out. As predicted, wth some additional benefits.

Constellation outright cancelled, message from the top on down.

$2.5 B of the new $6 B funding over 5 years (beyond flat) is in Earth Observation science missions. Major (claimed) focus on technologies for affordable long term human exploration of the solar system, including orbital demonstrations of propellant tank farm and orbital propellant transfers, automated rendezvous and docking (presumably, of human-sized vehicles, and vehicles far from earth), closed loop ECLSS, a new first stage booster engine (presumably big enough for a HLV), I think I saw mention of deep space propulsion. [all of the things that Mike Griffin starved to feed Apollo on Steroids — rs]

They’re explicitly stepping away from a roadmap, and onto the technology base that most of us long term experienced enthusiasts have been pushing for.

If I had to summarize my first impressions, especially of Bolden’s statement –

“We were doing Flags and Footprints. The President and I don’t want to do that. We want to colonize space for real. We’re going to do the foundations for that now.”

Page 1 of 2 | Next page