As Taylor writes, it all goes back to the intricately detailed study "Extending Human Presence into the Solar System" (July 2004, Planetary Society) co-authored by Owen Garriott (that's Richard Garriott's Dad!), Bill Claybaugh (now senior director of human spaceflight for Orbital Sciences), John Garvey (Garvey Spacecraft Corporation), Tom Jones (the former astronaut, not the sexy singer), Charles Kohlhase (JPL), Bruce McCandless II (another former astronaut), Will O’Neil (independent defense and space consultant), Paul A. Penzo (former JPL, now at Global Aerospace), and Mike Griffin.
The paper advocates a three stage exploration plan:
Phase One, access to LEO
- Shuttle-Orbiter return to flight (RTF), complete the ISS through at least "US Core Complete"
- Select and demonstrate launch vehicle for CEV
- Demonstrate early CEV use for crew transfer at the ISS
- Negotiate with international partners to obtain best way to transport remaining heavy modules to the ISS
- Retire Orbiter as soon as above steps are completed
- Costs distributed across full Exploration window
If we were reading this map in a vertical orientation there would be a big red spot saying You Are Here. Except for that whole "demonstrate crew transfer to the ISS" part.. schedule slippage due to rocket redesigns have a tendency to throw these things out of wack. But we have to move boldly forward to:Phase Two, interplanetary cruise
- Develop interplanetary cruise capability; uprated CEV, and necessary additional modules for the destination selected
- Ensure HLLV available, probably a Shuttle-derived HLLV
- Enable lunar orbit missions, remote sensing, Rovers with sample return
- Enable visits to Sun-Earth-Lagrange #2, astronomy, etc
- Enable visit and study of near-earth objects (NEOs)
- Enable visits to Mars vicinity, including moons Phobos and Deimos. Include remote sensors and Rover with return samples. Begin infrastructure placement. Select sites.
- Select destinations as appropriate: science, public, other interests
For anyone who says the Augustine committee just pulled Flexible Path out of the air, or that Obama was influenced by some secret cabal, or that he just wants to shut down human spaceflight (possibly the stupidest accusation in history), then I welcome them to do some actual reading, and try to improve your long term memory.
Once we have "interplanetary cruise", then what?Phase Three, human surface landings
- Prepare infrastructure for moon and/or Mars bases
- Build on thorough preparation in preceding stages
- Initiate human landings at selected destinations
- Plan for future solar system exploration
Note that building bases is not in phase two. In fact, landing in any significant gravity well is not in phase two. This is Mike Griffin's plan.. when he got into office the forces demanded that he tack a lander on to phase two and talk up a Moon base - but he never actually asked for funding for that lander, and there was never any work done on the base.Public Barnstorming
So what is phase two about? It's about going "out there", into deep space, for longer and longer. It's about showing the world that it is possible to send humans beyond the Earth-Moon system and bringing them safely back to Earth. In short, it's akin to exhibition flying in early aviation - sometimes called "barnstorming". The difference, as Taylor says, is that now NASA is doing it instead of the private sector, so it's "public barnstorming".
Phase two is not about asteroids. It's not about Lagrange points. It's not about the moons of Mars. It's not about "destinations".
Unfortunately, a lot of people think it is, and they don't understand why anyone would be interested in those destinations. I happened to think they're great destinations, because I'm an O'Neillian at heart, but arguing that would be missing the point.
Others agree that it isn't about destinations and they don't like that - Apollo was about a destination, and had a deadline, and they believe that without both of those NASA will just flop around like a dry fish and never achieve anything. I disagree. Destinations and deadlines are only goals and they're the short term variety. Yes, we need short term goals, but we also need long term ones - something Apollo never had.
The Vision for Space Exploration gives us a long term goal - give humanity the capability to expand into the solar system - let's not be blinded by the short term goals, that may come and go, to achieve it.