Save America’s Space Program

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Save America’s manned and womanned space program.

NASA has not been able to get Americans into space on American rockets since 2011. Instead, we are paying the Russians four billion dollars to ferry our astronauts to the International Space Station.

What’s killing America’s human access to space? Three projects: a rocket called the Space Launch System, a capsule called the Orion, and a new project called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.

These three programs are political boondoggles, pork, pie in the sky, jobs programs disguised as space programs. The Space Launch System, for example, is touted as the biggest rocket ever built. But its $30 billion development cost is eating up almost all of NASA’s human budget for deep space. Compare that $30 billion with the cost of developing Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy—less than a billion dollars. In other words, for the cost of developing the Space Launch System, we could develop thirty brand new rockets if we took the Elon Musk route. Or we could develop an entire Moon and Mars program.

After thirteen years of promises, the Space Launch System has never flown. And when it does, it will cripple NASA. The cost of one launch will be between one and two billion dollars. For that price, you could buy between eleven and 22 launches of the Falcon Heavy. You could buy the launches for an entire Moon and Mars program.

What’s worse, after the launch of each Space Launch System rocket, we will throw the exorbitantly-priced rocket away, then we will be forced to buy another one. Meanwhile, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are making rockets reusable. And reusable rockets, like reusable busses, trucks, trains, cars, and airplanes, will lower our cost of access to space dramatically.

Then there’s the Orion capsule that the SLS will fling into space. It cannot land. It can’t land on the Moon. It can’t land on Mars. And it’s too small to carry crews to Mars. It is a boondoggle.

Topping it all off is the Lunar Orbital Platform – Gateway, another nipple in the mouth of the Space Military Industrial Complex, another make-work program. It is a mini space station orbiting the moon. It's useless and can't even be manned or womanned year-round. But it will cost so much to build that we’ll never be able to build lunar landers. We won’t touch down on the moon. We’ll simply circle the moon from a distance and watch with frustration as the Chinese land human beings.

America needs low cost, high safety human access to space. It needs what Musk’s Dragon 2 capsule and Boeing’s Starliner promise. An inexpensive space Lyft car for human passengers. And America needs lunar landers, lunar rovers, lunar mining equipment, lunar trucks, and a lunar home in which humans can kick back and relax, a lunar base. America needs the same things for Mars. Because the Space Launch System, the Orion, and the Lunar Orbital Platform–Gateway  are eating NASA’s lunch, we do not have the money to develop any of these things.

It is time to kill the SLS, the Orion, and the Lunar Orbital Platform–Gateway. Before the Chinese take over our leadership position in human access to space.

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