In an earlier post, I decried the fact that Project Constellation and its projected return to the moon had been scrapped in the latest NASA budget. Since writing that initial post, I have heard more details about it. Some space enthusiasts have voiced cautious optimism, pointing out that the updated budget has, in fact, more money allocated to NASA and that among the items being funded is research for a next-generation heavy-lift rocket, which would be a prerequisite to space exploration beyond low Earth orbit.
While that indeed softens some of the blow from the cancellation of Project Constellation, I am troubled by the lack of specifics in the new budget. In fact, many knowledgeable people who have voiced public opinions are lukewarm about it at best. (i.e., when asked if they thought the new direction NASA is taking will be a good thing the answer was almost universally “I hope so.”)
Given the fact that there is no timetable stated for future human space missions or specified objectives for such flights, this new NASA plan seems to me to consist of nothing more than budget lines and pixie dust.
I may, of course, be wrong about this and this change in direction may, in fact, be the harbinger of a new era in space exploration which could turn out to be more efficient than Project Constellation had become.
I hope so.