Former Planetary Society director Louis Friedman writes in the Dec. 20 edition of the Space Review that the congressional mandate that NASA develop a heavy-lift rocket by 2016 is a surefire prescription for wasting money. New options for space transportation are becoming available, including various vehicles that would transport astronauts to and from low Earth orbit on a commercial basis, he notes. Meanwhile, NASA currently has no requirement for a shuttle-derived rocket capable of placing 130 metric tons into space, he notes.
“What is Congress thinking? Are they really planning to accelerate human missions beyond Earth orbit? They did not mention that in their legislation. In fact, they were weaker on that subject than was the Administration. They are more likely thinking only about the next year — the usual political run-up to elections and short-term benefits. Given the current forces for budget-cutting and debt reduction, that will lead to an unsustainable program like Constellation.”