The Space Advocate nicely mirrors my opinions on Obama’s “plans” for NASA.
The Space Advocate: Obama Addresses NASA
I particularly like some of Mr. Mallette’s ideas. They are far more reasonable
1. Establish a Trans-Lunar Infrastructure by 2015. Spacecraft (commercially developed), Orbiting fuel depots around Earth and Moon (NASA developed) and dropping supplies on the Lunar surface for phase 2 (both). Work on phase 2.
2. Build Lunar Base for 15 people by 2020. Both commercial and NASA partnerships to be used by NASA and general public scientists (globally as well, but as a rental space).
3. Spend the next 5 years (up to 2025) learning how to maintain, hold, operate and expand the base. 5 years to learn lessons AND inspire. Actually having a base there manned full time would kind of be a big deal for kids.
4. Mars landing by 2030. Use those lessons learned for the next main step, Mars mission. Probably just a landing for a month, depending on the orbital trajectories used, but a mission nonetheless.
Now, as to President Obama’s policy: it is lacking. I do not believe for a microsecond he supports NASA, its mission, or its future beyond the next election cycle (i.e. this November). Being dismissive of attempts to repeat (and perhaps improve upon) past accomplishments (like returning to the Moon) is not the hallmark of one truly committed to space exploration and development. Ending human space flight to the Moon might actually hinder development of a manned Mars mission. By preventing new design concepts, mission scenarios, and technological developments to be tested on a smaller, cheaper scale via moon missions Obama’s policy ensured even greater cost (and increased political interference by Congress who hold NASA’s purse strings).
While laudable to want to reach the asteroid belts and Mars, the President simply goes about it the wrong way by trying to leap frog over necessary developmental steps to ensure more cost effective and successful Mars and asteroid missions. Like it or not, returning the Moon is such a step (even if I did dislike Constellation and Orion). Skipping this step could well doom the future missions to failure and overly excessive costs.
As to his idea for private commercial development of space, that simply isn’t possible at this time, and perhaps may never be so. Even the largest and most successful of these companies simply do not have the financial resources to tale over space exploration and support roles. It is simply confounding. Brane Space fairly well sums up my opinions in that regard: Brane Space: Obama’s Cognitive Dissonance