In his commentary “Destinations or Capabilities? Lessons from History” [Feb. 7, page 19] on the past and future of U.S. human spaceflight, my friend John Logsdon appropriately calls for strong national leadership, enduring commitment and the resources to back it up. However, I disagree with his assessment that until we achieve this, “the debate regarding destinations versus capabilities will remain rather empty.”
What’s missing is a recognition of what it will take to get from where we are today to that hoped-for era of leadership. It will take a compelling path forward in space exploration and development that has purpose and can deliver long-term benefits. (And, one hopes, some short-term benefits too.) To do that, we need to come to some resolution in the destinations vs. capabilities debate. I strongly believe that we need to follow the capabilities-driven path, for reasons that I explain at length in my recent book “Choice, Not Fate: Shaping a Sustainable Future in the Space Age.”
Space exploration and space development should progress in a complementary manner. Failing to do this would yield Apollo 2.0: at best, a few exciting missions followed by generations of no follow-up.
James A. Vedda