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What is the goal of NASA? What should it be?
The permanent, sustainable settlement of space. Anything less than this, and we as Americans have to ask ourselves, “What is the purpose, if not this, of having a national space program at all?”
Why isn’t NASA doing this already?
Well, they are. At least they’re beginning to, with programs like Commercial Crew and Cargo. But we want more. We need more. We are in desperate need of a strong, clear goal (or set of goals) that outline why we even have a national space program to begin with…that goal, we believe, should be the permanent, sustainable settlement of space. This strategy outlines one possible way to achieve it.
What is the difference between what NASA is doing now and this proposed path?
Currently, our national space program is focused on keeping all 18 NASA centers alive and well, with employment rates staying level, thus keeping the developed infrastructure since the Apollo days alive. The vision, mission, and strategies have all been secondary to this, and everything has had to fit into this constrained box. This new proposed path switches these two notions, and begins with a clearly defined goal (the permanent, sustainable human settlement of space), and then utilizes the tools we have in our toolbox already (centers, infrastructure, employees).
Where did you get your cost numbers?
Cost numbers were taken from readily accessible public sources to serve as examples, and to make the case that this can be done at or slightly under the current NASA budget. Though some of our sources are not exactly academic in nature, they serve to convey the point being made, which is that this outlined strategy would cost the same (or less) than what we’re spending today. Sources include:
NASA’s website: Shuttle FAQ
Space.com: End of Shuttle
SpaceX: Falcon 9 cost, Cargo Resupply PR
Wikipedia: COTS Program, Apollo Program
The Space Review: EELV Program Cost
Inflation: US Inflation Calculator
Is this five step path the only way to explore space? Why did you choose to get behind this strategy instead of others that are out there?
Ask yourself this question: “Is what NASA is doing today really the BEST way to get to permanent, sustainable space settlement or any space exploration?” You’ll probably come to the conclusion that we have at the Space Frontier Foundation–though we’re doing some cool things now, it’s definitely not the most efficient, cheapest, quickest, or most exciting way to spend the billions of taxpayer dollars allocated every year.
The truth is, there are multiple right answers to this problem. This path is only one of many possible ways that NASA can spur the exploration and settlement of space. The key is that NASA needs a high level strategy that includes leveraging commercial industry, creating space economies and using in-situ resources from Space. Anything less is not sustainable, and will leave space beyond the grasp of humanity outside of the history books.