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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Arguing with your Father

In the latest Ad Astra (via, Robert Zubrin lists what he sees as the positive and negatives of NASA implementation of the Vision for Space exploration put forth by President Bush January, 2004.

I have to say, I agree with some of what he says. I am all for dropping the shuttle and moving on with our lives. I am all for shifting our fuel to methane/oxygen to make insitu production on Mars easier. That may be about it, though.

I have to admit, criticizing Bob is a lot like arguing with my Dad, or at least a good uncle. Bob almost single-handedly brought my love of space back. By 1997, I had given up on any reasonable space exploration in my lifetime and moved on to astronomy, grad school, and finding my wife. Case for Mars made me excited again. He is a big reason why I am here now.

The problem, as I see it, is he is doing just what he argued against in his book. He is arguing that it is too hard to do with what we have now. We must go out a build a big huge HLV or we should just give up. What really bothers me is he doesn't even give any reasons, just assumes it is gospel.

The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. An HLV is absolutely necessary to enable human exploration of the Moon or Mars, and it was a measure of former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe's unfitness for his position that he was willing to promote a clearly unworkable quadruple launch/quadruple rendezvous lunar architecture for the purpose of justifying the abandonment of that capability. Dr. Griffin has reversed that position and backed his policy with action, and that is excellent.

So we have to have one (of course) and O'Keefe was an idiot for not seeing that. Okay, fine I continue reading waiting on the reason. It never comes. Just more name calling.

...or the nonsensical O'Keefe quadruple-launch/quadruple rendezvous lunar mission plan of 2004, in order to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Theprevious NASA plans were pure nonsense. This one is real engineering. Finally, we have a plan that could actually work.

Don't get me wrong, I believe we can get to the Moon with an HLV. I think we could get there on a SpaceX Falcon IV, EELVs, or even a hopped up SpaceShipsThree. What bugs me is his (apparent) belief that if we weren't building a HLV we might as well shut it all down and go back to thinking the moon is a giant cheese-ball. Again he says

An HLV is absolutely necessary to enable human exploration of the Moon or Mars.

I disappointed in Mr. Zubrin. There is one line in this piece that makes me happy, however:

NOTE: The views of this article are the author’s and do not reflect the policies of the National Space Society.

(Notice they say "do not reflect" and not "may not reflect" ... )

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