The following is excerpted from a NASA publication, “The Vision for Space Exploration”, dated February 2004:
“The Space Shuttle will be critical to completing assembly of the Space Station. With Space Station assembly complete at the end of this decade, NASA will retire the Space Shuttle and put crew and cargo on different launches, a safer approach to crew transport.
NASA will initiate Project Constellation to develop a new Crew Exploration Vehicle for future crew transport. This vehicle will be developed in stages, with the first automated test flight in 2008, more advanced test flights soon thereafter, and a fully operational capability no later than 2014. The design of the Crew Exploration Vehicle will be driven by the needs of the future human exploration missions described in this document. The Crew Exploration Vehicle might also supplement international partner crew transport systems to the Space Station.”
Leap forward over ten years to 4 December 2014. The Constellation project is history. The Ares I, which had already seen its first test launch, has been scrapped. Now it is the as yet to fly (maybe 2017) Space Launch System and the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (aka, Orion, a spin off of the original Orion). The FIRST flight of Orion, originally slated for today, hopefully will take place tomorrow. The NEXT test flight will happen in 2018. The first MANNED flight is planned for 2021, another 6 to 7 years off! That is plenty of time for the date to slip even further.
Does seventeen years of development seem realistic? It was recently announced that the heat shield will be redesigned. The current one, consisting of 330,000 individually filled honeycomb cells that takes six months to fabricate is being judged as “not practical”. What genius finally figured that one out? Orion is already obsolete. The as yet to be built service module is to be built in Europe using much of the design from the soon to be defunct Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).
Any resemblance of the 2014 NASA to the NASA that landed men on the moon is purely coincidental. NASA needs to turn it’s “Air” responsibilities over to the FAA and its “Space” responsibilities to the likes of SpaceX and close shop. It has become nothing more than a political football and money pit.
NASA. We can’t build it quick, but we can do it expensively! (Provided we don’t get close, trash can it, and start all over.)