Symptoms: The Constellation Program has been eliminated in favor of commercial transport to the International Space Station. Although this supposedly will free-up NASA to work harder on going beyond LEO, there is, as of yet, no plan for NASA's new era of interplanetary travel.
Diagnosis: Although I believe that the real source of the disease is uncured chronic underfunding, there are some legitimate good ideas in the proposal.
Prognosis: If the condition is left untreated, the patient will hemorrhage jobs and be unable to perform its duty of keeping America the world's greatest space power. However, with some adjustments the patient may just pull through, or even improve.
Prescription: Go ahead with investing in commercial spaceflight, but do not totally cancel Constellation. The Ares V rocket will be a valuable resource to any trips beyond LEO, and thus should not be lost. Funds for the Ares V program can be procured from the Ares I program, which now seems to have been declared dead by politicians and experts alike. The Orion module has undergone much design and testing, and appears to be a perfectly spaceworthy vehicle. Instead of building a new rocket to launch it, it can instead be launched on a currently-available booster, or even with cargo on Ares V. This way, we will still have the framework in place for going beyond LEO in the early 2020's, but we will gain all of the potential benefits of commercial spaceflight.
Fun space infographics - Non-planets and Spacecraft - Every now and then I come across some nice infographics. Here is a nice one showing the moon and other "non-planets" of the solar system. Even though a fe...
2 weeks ago