I was going to write another article about the administration’s new NASA plan, but while catching up on email and articles from while I was in Oregon, I see that “Rusty” Schweickart already said what I wanted to. And he put it better than I would’ve (emphasis mine):
Our current situation is akin to being on a dead end road. Instead of being on a path toward the goal we all seek, i.e. to regain our leadership position in human space exploration, we must recognize that we are (and have been) on a path to nowhere. We are confronted with arguments to ignore the clear signs of this sad situation and even encouraged to accelerate along this futile path.
The alternative to this is support for the President’s proposed plan. It recognizes and eliminates the waste of precious resources in the current program and heads us in a productive direction toward our desired destination. In other words, when you recognize you are on a dead end road, stop, turn around, and head in a direction more useful to your goal.
Are we, in fact, on a dead end road? In answering this critical question you should not overvalue either my opinion or the opinions of my fellow astronauts, but rather focus on the considered and thoughtful, and even hard-nosed, analysis of the panel of experts who dealt explicitly with this, the Augustine Committee on our Human Spaceflight Program.
Is this risky? Of course it’s risky. All space activity is risky. But wisely accepting and managing this risk will ultimately lead to a new and exciting US business capability which will be the envy of the world. The alternative is for NASA to continue to divert its precious human and economic capital to a challenging but very well understood transportation service rather than toward pioneering new and more advanced technology.
While admittedly I still am still more personally interested in the Moon than in NEOs and Mars, Rusty made some good arguments. In particular, I really appreciated Rusty’s comments about risk. Anyone who thinks CxP wasn’t risky has their head in the sand. Congressional supporters wouldn’t be needing to slip spending restrictions into emergency military funding bills that have nothing to do with NASA if CxP were a low-risk, well-performing program. The reality is that there are always risks, including the risk that we’ll overspend on what is at best a mediocre program like CxP where success is defined as spending over $100B and 20 years to have what is at best still a joke of a lunar exploration program. Since we really have to take risks any way you slice it, I’d rather make sure we were taking the risks that would actually allow us to start becoming a spacefaring society.