So…what’s NASA’s “Plan B”?

March 14, 2010

So did Major General Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, direct Michael L. Coats, director of the Johnson Space Center, to create a “Plan B” to preserve some orbital and heavy-lift capacity within the confines of the Obama NASA budget? Bolden says no, in this NY Times article. A Wall Street Journal article says different.

Is it the “Plan B” that was being developed over a year and a half ago?

Side-mount cargo shuttle, derived from the old "Shuttle C" design

In any case, I would expect there are some efforts being made to push some other designs out there and make the budget numbers. Before that, all NASA had was the Augustine Commission – which said NASA needed more money, not less.

I’m partial to the DirectLauncher design:

DirectLauncher Jupiter 130 design

But even this guy has an interesting idea:

Might have a couple of stability problems, though...

I don’t know. I DO know that the NASA budget is miniscule compared to the other crazy stuff that gets billions and billions of dollars of tax money every year. Giving them an extra billion to finish the job – even ten billion – when we’re throwing around trillions of dollars in “recovery” money seems incredibly silly. If they want the commercial companies like SpaceX to move faster, then throw the money at them. They are all run on a shoestring because it takes so much R&D and so many tests before they could ever begin to show a profit.

I also know that there are a bunch of smart people out there. They are looking for other places to go than NASA, because they see their jobs disappearing. Some have already left. The “brain trust” will be gone. The guys who designed Apollo are mostly all retired or dead. We will have no new spaceflight engineers in another generation.

Jay Barbree, a long-time NBC space reporter, says this budget reduction didn’t come from Obama but from bureaucrats several levels below. I would sure like to know who – and why.

Heinlein said we will eventually go back to the Moon, but we may have to learn to speak Chinese to do it. (At least, if my memory serves, that was the quote.) I pray he wasn’t right.


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