At Today's NASA, Success Is Not an Option
By Robert Zubrin
National Review, 06.12.19
The Trump administration has proposed a bold new initiative, dubbed the Artemis Program, that will send astronauts to the Moon by 2024 and Mars by 2033. As detailed by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a presentation on May 23, the program will include some 37 launches by 2028, kicked off by the maiden launch of the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift booster in October 2020.
Unfortunately, the program as currently conceived is very unlikely to succeed, as it appears to be designed primarily as a mechanism for distributing funds, rather than for accomplishing goals in space. This was made clear when Bridenstine said that a baseline condition for the program would be that all piloted missions would use the SLS booster and the Orion crew capsule, neither of which has yet flown, rather than much cheaper alternatives that have flown. Furthermore, at 26 tons the Orion is so heavy that the SLS cannot deliver it to low lunar orbit with enough propellant for it to fly home. So rather than using a SpaceX Dragon (which at 10 tons is still 50 percent larger than ...