Committee Urges Multi-Destination Plan for NASA Human Space Flight

The Augustine Commission released their final report today, and while they didn’t offer specific recommendations for NASA’s human space flight program, they laid out five possible options, highlighting a flexible plan that allows for several destinations out of low Earth orbit. The report also encouraged commercial space ventures to handle trips to the International Space Station. “The different options speak for themselves,” said head of the commission, Norman Augustine at a press briefing today following the release of the report. “We believe Mars is clear goal of the human spaceflight program, but for safety reason we ruled out going directly there. We’ve offered programs that are alternatives for building a heavy lift launch capability, as we believe that to be extremely important for the human space program, and we believe this is the time to create a commercial market to transport humans to Earth orbit.”

But the strongest point the committee made is that NASA needs additional funds of $3 billion a year in order to accomplish much of anything.

“The premier conclusion of the committee is that the human spaceflight program is on a unsustainable trajectory,” Augustine said. “We say that because of a mismatch of the scope of the program and the funds available.”

In the report, the committee said either additional funds need to be made available or a far more modest program involving little or no exploration needs to be adopted.

NASA Appropriation History in Real Year and Constant Year 2009 Dollars. Source: OMB Historical Budget Tables
NASA Appropriation History in Real Year and Constant Year 2009 Dollars. Source: OMB Historical Budget Tables

Meanwhile, the White House said today that President Obama is committed to human space explorations and wants the US to have a vigorous & sustainable program, but offered no specifics on how the administration might proceed following the release of the report. NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said he would be meeting with the president in November.

The 157-page report titled “Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation,” does not differ from a preliminary report issued in August, but offers “substantiation” for their views, Augustine said.

The consensus of the committee was that NASA should conduct a human space flight program somewhat different than the current path of returning to the Moon. The “flexible” plan would allow for reaching exciting and different destinations sooner than landing on the Moon.

“There are a lot of things we could do along the way to build up to a Mars program,” Augustine said, “such as a circumlunar program, circle Mars, land on an asteroid, land on Phobos or Deimos and do some exciting science from there. We could do those things rather than wait 15 years for the first major event.”

Another committee member Ed Crawley added, “What causes flexible path to make sense is that you can build some of the overall system, the booster and capsule and then you can start going places, like flying around the moon, then to a near Earth object. And it would be less energetically intensive to do a flyby of Mars than to land on the surface of the Moon. You could build the heavy booster and a capsule, and start exploring, and then later build the landers.”

Crawley compared the options to saving longer to buy a big camper or saving for a short period of time to buy a station wagon and then later purchasing a camper to hook onto the car.

When asked for a timetable, Crawley and Augustine said it was likely NASA could leave LEO in the early 2020’s. “Early- to mid- 2020’s without pinning down an exact year, which would be several years earlier than we would get to the moon,” Crawley said.

The report suggested extending the space shuttle program until 2011, instead of the current goal of retiring the program in 2010. “The flight rate to 2010 is roughly double that of what has been demonstrated since the loss of Columbia,” Augustine said. “We believe it would be prudent to put funds in 2011 to fly a better, realistic schedule. NASA has no money in the current budge to do that, we believe it should.”

As for the Ares program, the panel did not call it an engineering failure but rather a victim of smaller-than-expected budgets and changing circumstances. “With time and sufficient funds, NASA could develop, build and fly the Ares I successfully,” the report said. “The question is, should it?”

They said the Ares I-X test flight next week should go ahead as scheduled, because there still would be much to learn from the demonstration. But because of the slipping dates of when the spacecraft would be ready, it would likely be too late for one of its primary tasks, ferrying astronauts to and from the space station. The panel said a better option for low-Earth orbit transport would be private commercial space companies. Augustine said NASA should focus on going beyond low Earth orbit rather than having a trucking service to LEO.

The panel also discussed heavy-lift rocket based on rockets currently used by the Air Force to lift satellites or one based more closely on the space shuttle design. (See our previous article on that subject.)

The committee also urged extending the life of the ISS to 2020. “The Committee finds that the return on investment from the ISS to both the United States and the international partners would be significantly enhanced by an extension of its life to 2020. It seems unwise to de-orbit the Station after 25 years of planning and assembly and only five years of operational life. A decision not to extend its operation would significantly impair the U.S. ability to develop and lead future international spaceflight partnerships. Further, the return on investment from the ISS would be significantly increased if it were funded at a level allowing it to achieve its full potential.”

In a nutshell, here are the 5 alternatives the committee came up with

1. Maintain all programs as is, but extend the space shuttle program to 2011 and ISS to 2020. Without extra funding, the Ares rockets wouldn’t be ready until 2020 and there would never be enough money to go to the Moon.

2. Maintain current funding, scrap Ares I, develop an Ares V lite version (about 2/3 of Ares V heavy) and divert extra funds to ISS for extension to 2020. Buy commercial LEO human space flight. The Ares might be ready by 2025, and perhaps get to the Moon after 2030.

3. Add $3 billion per year and proceed with the Constellation program to return to the Moon. The ISS would have to be de-orbited in 2016 to allow a return to the Moon by about 2025.

4. Add $3 billion per year. Extend the ISS to 2020 and get to the Moon by about 2025. Use either Ares V Lite, or Shuttle-C for heavy lift.

5. Add $3 billion per year. Extend the shuttle program to 2011 and extend ISS to 2020. Instead of heading to land on the Moon, orbit the Moon, or go to Near Earth Objects and prepare to go to Mars. Use either Ares V Lite; a heavy Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) or, a shuttle-derivative.

A summary of the Integrated Options evaluated by the Committee. Source: Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee
A summary of the Integrated Options evaluated by the Committee. Source: Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee

Watch Norman Augustine’s opening remarks from the press conference today:

Sources: Augustine Report, press briefing

27 Replies to “Committee Urges Multi-Destination Plan for NASA Human Space Flight”

  1. I barely know where to start with all of this. What an absolute debacle. What a disgrace. What a shambles! If this keeps going, America won’t just be behind China in the space game. They’ll be behind China, Russia, India, Japan, France, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Egypt, Samoa, Figi, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo etc. Hell, even Australia will probably get to Mars before the US at this rate.

    Are they seriously saying that we can’t even get to the moon by 2020? 2030?! Anyone ever heard of the Apollo program? They went from zero to heros in less time than it took me to write this sentence, and they had to work it all out from scratch. Everything!

    Congress should just force NASA to axe it’s human spaceflight sector now and be done with it – they practically have already. It would be preferable to see congress just admit that they’re not interested in human spaceflight, rather than forcing NASA to make do with inadequate funding such that they can only make the half-arsed, flaccid efforts that go on now. Which brings me to the ISS. What a waste of time, money, resources, great minds, and probably many more things that I can’t think of off the top of my head. Then they want to DEORBIT the thing after a mere five years of operation?! WHO ARE THESE CLOWNS?! I can’t think of even one thing that the ISS has given us, apart from international cooperation and expertise in space-based construction and engineering. Up until this point, more science has been enabled due to the existence of the magnifying glass sitting on the edge of my desk than has been enabled by the existence of ISS. Now they want to get rid of it? If they got rid of it now, could anyone justify WHY THE HELL THIS THIS WAS EVEN BUILT in the first place?! I say now that it’s there, at least leave it there for a while to see if anyone can come up with something to do with the damn thing. Stick rockets on the back of it and send it to Mars or something.

    NASA’s science missions are a triumph. They are beyond reproach. On the manned front, the recent Hubble servicing mission was a triumph and goes to show what can be done when bureaucratic and financial constraints are lifted off NASA’s shoulders. I have that sinking feeling though that as far as manned spaceflight goes, that servicing mission may well be looked back on as the crowning achievement of an agency that was subsequently choked to death by businessmen (sometimes referred to as politicians) with a lack of any sort of vision or goal that doesn’t involve them snorting cocaine and sipping single malt on a yacht moored off the Cayman islands.

  2. Failure went from not being an option to being the administrative mandate. The US is far behind where it should have been in the 80’s, and no one is willing to take this problem on because space does not decide elections anymore.

    They want to throw this in the presidents lap, but its not an issue that’s been close to his heart. So I suspect his response will either be “we cant afford this” or “I have my own vision for space exploration that will not cost us a thing ….or achieve any of its goals until decades after I’ve left office”.

  3. I don’t like any of these options…it’s almost like were slowing down and nearly giving up. Shouldn’t progress be what we’re after? Going further, faster.

  4. The thing about the Apollo program was that there was funding to back it up. LOTS of funding! Bush basically said “we will go to the moon” but didn’t back up his words with the money. THAT is the disgrace.

  5. Heads up, guys. I really like the idea of preparing to go to Mars. 5A option is fine. But, 3 billions will be a problem.

    – not depressed HAU from EU. 🙂

  6. Yep its a appauling, they were able to go to the moon with a pocket calculator but now cant!? There is soo much bureaucracy. Just scared to get sued. we should be on mars by now with a whole colony if we kept up like the apollo program.

    Russian are doing the best it seem with there limited funds. I have a facebook group for them here:
    join and show your support

  7. Are they seriously saying that we can’t even get to the moon by 2020? 2030?! Anyone ever heard of the Apollo program? They went from zero to heros in less time than it took me to write this sentence, and they had to work it all out from scratch. Everything!

    I support a fully funded manned space program, but this is oversimplifying things rather a lot. First, the overwhelming impetus for Apollo was (geo-)political. America sank billions into the programs simply because they wanted to beat the Soviet Union to the Moon.

    Second, going to the Moon and staying — the stated goal of a return to the Moon — is an order of magnitude more difficult and expensive than simply touching down and taking off again a few days later. We can leave that sort of mission to the Chinese, Indians, or whoever — been there, done that.

    Third, while I have no doubt that the astronauts would be happy to take extreme risks, NASA is a lot more risk averse than it was in the 1960s. Safety adds a lot of time and money to any manned mission, and while some people fault NASA for being too risk averse, its obvious that the American public doesn’t like it when astronauts die. (Ironically, if they die during training, it doesn’t get the same response).

    So, it’s all very well complaining it’s not like the good old days, but I don’t believe it’s a fair comparison. The world has change, and NASA has too.

  8. This committee should be locked in a small box and dumped in space.

    I think we as an unknown collective to each other would come to a quicker and better solution than this rubbish.

  9. I’m equally worried as to how these limited options for the manned space program bodes for future unmanned missions, either in terms of solar system astronomy or deep space observatories.

  10. To clarify my above comment, it seems as if the future of unmanned missions could go either way. Either a heavy reliance on unmanned missions to collect basic data on solar system-deep space observations or a scaled back effort of either solar system or deep space missions due to a lack of a central goal ( like missions to find lunar water, LCROSS, LRO, Clementine to identify possible manned landing sites). What unmanned missions will Congress and the American taxpayer deem worthy of funding? This could go either way.

  11. “Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation” is a title that drips with hubis and nationalistic nonsense.

    Mars can wait – we have no compelling reason to go there.We have a lot to do here on Earth – but I would not abandon spaceflight. I would leave deep space to the robots until we get an infrastructure together here in the Earth-Moon system. And make it an international effort, “For All Humankind”.

    Read Gerald O’Neal. That is the right program for our species. We can have cities in space that will turn a profit and support future exploration. And by then, we will know so much more about living in space long term and the effect of lower gravity, etc.

  12. Look no further; the problem is us (NASA).

    Two words: Greed and Ineptness.
    NASA management, Air Force, (and Congress) have their favorites that they return to time and again with great, profitable contracts.
    $500M was given to Delta and Atlas to update their designs while the COTS program initially had $500M for a ground up design and launch of 8 missions split between 2 or 3 companies.

    Greed & Ineptness: Even competitions like COTS had the winners pre-chosen and it was poorly administered.
    Why else would they down select the 23 competitors to the 6 most financially strong competitors first, THEN pick the 2 winners from the most technically sound of this group.
    Normally you down select the most technically sound proposals first, give the down selected 6 months to get their finances aligned, THEN pick the winner from this group.

    Greed and Ineptness: Look at Ares I; they have to reuse the Shuttle SRB because ATK needs a contract. They have to reuse the hypergolic RCS system from the Apollo program because that is the way we always did it. The only smart thing about Ares was they decided not to stay with SSME.

    In the 80’s, if you mentioned going to moon, the reply was, “Been there, done that.”
    NASA purposely went out of their way to squash any new launch vehicle company, i.e., E’prime and Deke Slayton’s venture.

    NASA should have realized after Challenger that the Shuttle was never going to live up to its cost-to-orbit promises. The $5B that congress gave NASA to build Endeavor should have been used to build a new launch vehicle via a competition like Centennial Challenges and COTS.

    Greed and Ineptness: Can anybody tell me the purpose of ISS? Originally, it was sold to the American Taxpayer as a way station in order to assemble launch vehicles to the moon and Mars. Now they are telling us that they have to push it out of orbit in order to have money to go back to the moon. What a crock!

    Greed and Ineptness: The government (NASA) should get out of the launch vehicle design business and merely purchase access to space. NASA is not even considering lessons learned technologies and ideas. NASA should hold competitions on the CONCEPT, design and manufacture of the spacecraft, moon craft, and launch vehicles via fix, firm contracts. Why do we keep ending up with the same terrible vehicle designs (i.e., Shuttle, Shuttle-C, ALS, NLS, and now Ares I) and the same terrible engine designs (i.e., SSME, OMS, and J-2X, when the tap-off J-2S was far superior)?

  13. So what if the Chinese land on the Moon next? Is the American psyche so fragile that it would be a fatal blow to our self-esteem? Perhaps some jingoistic far-right conservatives might be upset, but most Americans are made of sterner stuff.

    This kind of pettiness is moot anyway. Even if the Chinese put 100 people on the Moon before the next American lands there, it means squat in the long run. We’re decades away for being able to exploit the Moon’s resources in any meaningful way, and a couple of Chinese lunar bases aren’t change anything.

    Our future in space doesn’t belong to one country — it belongs to all mankind. In a century or two it won’t matter

  14. Astrofiend– you have obviously NOT stayed with and observed the ISS programs. MUCH has been done with science there. Experiments done to observe the long-term effects of the weightlessness on plants, even microbes, and, yes, animals,(yes, humans ARE animals). Earth weather has been observed and studied there. Many deeper science programs that I have read were done on ISS. Scrap it now?? THAT’S NUTS!!! Find one of the ISS program lists and learn a bit, please?

  15. Ok, Vanamonde listen
    I understand that it perhaps sounds like hubris, to compete with other nations to get to space but I think its the only way. In my personal opinion, “international cooperation” is overrated. So much more can be done when a bit of competetion is involved. I mean, look at the mess were in now, without someone to beat, there is no incentive to do!
    Don’t get me wrong, there are upsides (the ISS). Still, think of the former ambition of America, and what we accomplished, we went to the moon, for the first time, everything involved was a first. Now look, we are a shadow of our former selves, and at this rate China and all those other countries with a grain of initiative will beat us there. We have all the technology and we’ve DONE IT BEFORE with a fraction of what technology we all have at our fingertips. So, yeah, I think nationalism has its place if it makes us a nation of pioneers…unlike now, where our indecisiveness has parlysized us, cooperation is meaningless if our own country has the ability to do anything anyway, it just slows us down! (please take note I’m just talking about the space program here, I’m not preaching that everyone bows to the power of the USA, that would be contradictory to my point…we need them, but not as collaborators,but as rivals that pressure us into doing great things). Next time you hear Obama preaching “cooperation” please remember what I’ve told you (he’s a good example of what NOT to do…he’s done nothing interesting, it takes him half a goddamned year to solve healthcare problems [still ain’t resolved] and that just shows his cooperative ‘bipartisan’ plan is baloney)

    Mr. Man

  16. Mr. Man, that’s wrong on so many levels I can’t even begin to put my finger on all of them.

    How many contemporary space missions do you think happen without international cooperation? Do you think, by any chance, that the Hubble is a NASA mission? It isn’t: it’s a cooperative effort with ESA. That the chinese developped their crewed capsules on their own? They didn’t; they had help from the russians. That the recent indian lunar probe is purely indian? Wrong again, it included instruments with several origins, including, IIRC, the US and, for certain, Europe. Cassini was launched with an ESA probe attached, called Huygens. ESA, by the way, is in itself totally the fruit of international cooperation, and just look at what it already has accomplished. These days, it’s the second most important space agency in the world in just about everything except human spaceflight, in which the russians still lead.

    Even in stuff that seems to be entirely national there is international cooperation. An example is the recent japanese transfer vehicle to the ISS, which had to use pre-existent docking systems. Another one is deep space communications, for which EVERYONE depends on an international network of tracking stations. And there are many more examples.

    The hell with nationalistic bull. That accomplishes nothing. Everyone speaks about the Apollo program as if it was such a great feat, but in truth you learn more with ONE contemporary robotic mission to the Moon than you did with the whole of the Apollo program. In terms of value for money, for the huge amount of money that was buried there, the Apollo program was a disaster. I’m speaking about science here; propagandistically, politically, even militarily, it was a triumph. But since I’m interested in science, not in politics and propaganda, I’m really, REALLY sorry that the Apollo program demanded so much money that it effectively hindered the american space program for the next decade and a half. In fact, it was only truly revived with the shuttle. And I’m even more sorry that this crazy notion that the Apollo was a scientific success made everyone, in America and in the rest of the world, forget all about the Moon for decades. Had we understood correctly how little we got out of it, we might have discovered water there in the 70s or in the 80s, instead of just in the XXI century.

    I’m interested in learning, most of all, not in the inconsequential spectacle of seing people jumping around in other worlds only to leave them and never return. It there’s not the goal of at least learning what are the possibilities of building permanent outposts out there, I’m not interested. To waste mountains of cash simply to go somewhere is just plain stupid and the single worst thing that could be done to space exploration, apart from just shutting everything down.

  17. But whats the point of learning all of this information if we don’t go there. If thats the case we might as well shut it all down. I love information, Jorge, I do…but going somewhere…in the Flesh, should be the goal of it all, otherwise I just wind up feeling like I’m missing something, missing an adventure. I think the Appollo mission is the one mission that accomplished this adventure, and we did it alone. And since when is truimph in politcs and the military Not a truimph, those two reasons are why the USA is no.1 to begin with. Science is an integration with them, its what propels it forward…and an atmosphere of competition, healthy compitition, is what propels science forward.

  18. What will you do,
    What will you wished you have done,
    What will become of your job,
    What will become of the industry,
    What will the world think of our nation,
    How will history judge our generation,

    When the next human words spoken from the surface of the Moon are in Chinese?

    We are in the next great space race and we don’t even know it.
    When the Chinese land on the moon and we tell the world that we still need 10 years to do the same, the world will not care that we landed in 1969; they will rightly assumed that we had lost the ability and the race.

  19. It may not mean anything immediatly significant if the Chinese land there first. But it will give them a huge head start into finding those resources (as they would be working there 24/7…and I’d bet money they wouldn’t just give some to us under the arguement: “for all mankind” they’d do what they do now: export to wallmart or whatever and make us ever more dependant on them. Thats just my take on it.
    Mr. Man

  20. Mr. Man, face it: you won’t go anywhere. You will miss it all. The adventure is not for you; it’s for someone else, while you’ll just be watching it from your sofa. The Apollo program included a grand total of 6 successeful landings. 12 people stepped on the Moon. Only 12.

    Why the hell should I pay to have someone else have all the fun, in an adventure I take no part of and from which I learn little or nothing?

    Dude, if you want to have fun, you pay for it.

    I want to pay to gain something out of it. And I do much more exploration with Cassini or HiRISE or either of the Mars rovers than I would have done with watching some dude in a space suit jumping around some NEO. He may be having the time of his life, but I’m not him. He may be seing stuff no eyes had ever seen, but I’ll always need a camera, and I truly don’t care if that camera is operated by a person or by a machine (which is also operated, remotely, by people, let’s not forget).

    I don’t want human spaceflight missions unless thay are stepping stones to build a permanent human presence in space. That’s the only truly good reason to put people up there, all things considered. Visits to the Moon are worth nothing, unless they are a preparation to create a lunar base. The same goes for all other celestial bodies (or non-bodies, like the lagrange points). The same goes for Earth orbit, and that’s why the ISS and all of the efforts that led to the ISS are worth every penny that was spent in them.

    And regarding international cooperation, dude, get real. Without it we wouldn’t have the Hubble, we wouldn’t have the ISS, we wouldn’t have Cassini, we wouldn’t have Mars Express, we wouldn’t have lots of other space missions and everything they’ve brought us. Can you really say we’d be richer?


  21. Jorge, let me clarify what I meant…when I said going there in the flesh I meant going there to stay, with the adventure that living in a colony brings. I never meant paying for some lucky dude to hop around on the moon, or mars and come back in 2 weeks having achieved nothing. no.
    But keep in mind those 12 men that landed on the moon, did inspire the nation. They proved that its possible to go offworld if the USA is determined and at its best, something we haven’t been since, certainly not after the recession.
    Also, in response to your other comment; how do you know I won’t go to the moon, you haven’t a clue who I really am. I could be Buzz Aldrin for all you know. Or I could be a current astronaunt at Nasa right now. Heck, I could be in high school. Anyway even if I go nowhere, I have no problem paying my own little bit for the advancement of humankind and the USA.
    Mr. Man

  22. Let’s just say that the odds are overwhelmingly on the side that you’re none of those things. And even if beat the odds and you are, you’re not the only one reading the comments, so for the overwhelming majority of those who do, it fully applies. It’s always a tiny weeny minority having the fun and the vastest of the vast majorities paying the bill.

    On inspiration, well, *I* feel inspired by Cassini, by HiRISE, by Hubble, by Mars and Venus Express, by MESSENGER. I feel inspired by seing nature at work and the wonders it creates and by knowing that human ingenuity managed to capture those wonders in film or bits and will make sense out of them. Not by seing people hopping around. I just don’t think the inconsequence of sending people to places just to go somewhere has anything to do with the advancement of mankind.

    In fact the most unsatisfactory and frustrating thing in the recent coverage of the Hubble servicing mission was to hear the astronauts wowing at what they were seing and seing just the astronauts, not what they were wowing about.

  23. Jorge, I told you already…I find going there to stay as inspiring and adventurous (I thought that was agreeing with you)… not hopping around meaninglessly. Why do you keep bringing it up?

    On another note, The hubble mission just proves that when we go out into space, we ARE accomplishing something, money is never wasted so some guy can have tons of fun in space…thats what space tourism is for.
    Mr. Man

  24. I was kinda referring to previous comments, not only by you. Several people seem to think that the epitome of “adventure” or “progress” is to send someone somewhere. Apollo is the proof that it isn’t so. It *was* largely inconsequential, it generated very little actual science, and did very little towards what I think is the only valid aim for our presence in space: colonization. And when I now see people pissed off because we’re not doing new Apollos, pissed off because we’re learning to build in space in low Earth orbit before we apply that knowledge elsewhere, pissed off with the notion of getting back to the Moon, to stay this time, instead of doing new Apollos, just as inconsequential, to Mars or to some NEO, I worry. It isn’t just you (although you did say exactly that before. You did say “go there”, not “stay there”), it’s a whole attitude I’m seing in many people, especially those that are more vocal against the very concept of the ISS.

    I much prefer that we learn first as much as we can, and only then go to places. To stay.

    Regarding the Hubble mission, it proves that we have learned enough already to do maintenance in space, that’s all. It does not mean that whatever we do or wherever we go we accomplish something.

    I fail to see, for instance, the relevance of a crewed NEO mission, or a crewed mission to a Lagrange point. For the price of a crewed NEO mission, we could send 10 or more robotic ones, capable of studying it much more deeply and for much, much longer. Ditto for the Lagrange missions. What the heck would astronauts do there that couldn’t be done better and for a fraction of the price by machines?

  25. Machines wuold be more tactful, useful and cost efficient but as mentioned before, people are greedy. The greed shows in many ways. For instance, where is Sony or Toshiba? BMW? Mercedes? Microsoft? These companies should create a donation program to help out instead of letting the world rely on governments that are currently having difficulties supporting their countries. I suppose it would be too much to ask one of those multi billionaires to send in some cash instead of building their own private island in the shape of the Eiffel tower. I am positive that people from each industry can pull together and lend a hand in making this happen. I know that it is not cheap to make these things happen, but it is the world vs the great beyond.

    The Second kind of greed clouds our vision on what shoud be accomplished. Learning as much as possible increases the chances for success in any situation. People are more focused on who gets to be first in line like they did back in the 60’s. We wouldn’t want communism leaking out into the universe and contaminating it now would we? All nations involved in the space exploration are trying to prove how they are better instead or banding together to help reduce costs and accomplish a considerable amount more than what will be with current views. Pissing contests never really get people any further than a few inches.

    In regards to Jorge’s last comment, what would be the drawback on sending robots to distant places to observe and gather intel for us while we create long flight shuttles or starships as well as habitats for other planets? Building these items in space would cost us ungodly amounts of money just in travel carrying the materials and supples. Building them on earth would cost a lot in fuel use just lifting them into space. The question it brings us is do we want to risk launching something of that magnitude into space with the chance of something coming apart or do we eat the cost of travel?

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