Thursday, December 9, 2010

Back to the future.

Big props to SpaceX for their successful launch and recovery of the first commercial human space flight system. Their Dragon capsule went up, completed two orbits of the Earth and successfully landed in the Pacific. I'm excited yet conflicted about this success. It is great that private enterprise (albeit with a load of Government money) has finally fielded a system that is at parity with where NASA was in the heady days of the Apollo Program. But it's also a sad indictment of where NASA is today.

SpaceX has nearly completed a viable manned system after around two billion dollars in funding from the private sector and the Government in the form of commercial launch contracts. NASA has spent and estimated $40 billion on the Ares I launch system and at least another $3 billion on the Orion capsule that is meant to replace the Space Shuttle. Granted Ares and Orion were intended to push us back to the Moon and beyond but at 20X the cost of a low earth orbit system? I hate to say it but the bureaucracy of NASA appears to have snuffed out their ability to deliver on budget. Not to mention that the Constellation program was still going to cost as much as $1billion a much as or more than the existing Space Shuttle. The whole point of Constellation was to get us out of low Earth orbit again for less than the cost of the Shuttle.

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