While my current major interests are “new space” companies and their efforts, I have not been a major supporter of the Orion deep-space crew capsule based on its tremendous cost. Lockheed Martin does, however, deserve some defense of its efforts [“Lockheed Execs Defend All-purpose Orion,” June 16, page 12].
If Lockheed were to wait around for the National Research Council (NRC) and the White house to determine national and program goals, Orion would still be in simulation only.
It is also important to not design one-off mission hardware. If we are to move beyond low Earth orbit, a spacecraft with more generalized capabilities will be needed.
We just don’t know what we will want or need once operating beyond LEO. Unforeseen science and opportunities are going to crop up. How many missions can the NRC actually envision at this point?
If Orion is going to be our only dedicated ship for beyond Earth orbit, it needs open options.