NASA Administrator Charles Bolden-a former shuttle craft commander, spared with senators concerning the agency's fiscal 2011 budget. Congress is pushing for specific missions and deadlines. They (the Obama administration) has drawn opposition for plans to scrap the Moon return and Mars mission for long-range goals.
So far, about all we got out of the administration is an expansion of robotic exploration of Mars.
I want to quote two sections from Seth Borenstein's article that was posted on comcast.net: And while the new NASA plan includes extra money — $6 billion over five years — for private spaceships and developing new rocket technology, NASA shouldn't be just about spending, the senators said. It should be about John F. Kennedy-like vision.
"Resources without vision is a waste of time and money," Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said, calling the Obama space plan a "radical change of vision and approach." He vowed to fight the plan "with every ounce of energy I have."
And former chief astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson said the new plan "has no clear path, no destination, no milestones and no program focus."
And this quote: That is why he said the new NASA plan invests in developing in-orbit fuel depots, inflatable spaceship parts, new types of propulsion and other technology.
Bolden would not even guess when NASA would try to send astronauts to Mars, but said the technology NASA is studying could cut the trip to the Red Planet from three months to a matter of days if it works.
"We're oh-so-close, but we've got to invest in that technology," Bolden testified. end quote of article.
New technology huh? Anti-matter? That's going to take longer to develop I afraid than conventional means of travelling back to the Moon and to Mars.
Maybe Bolden is hanging his space helment on VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket). I would if I was him. It would make for a quicker trip to Mars to go with that engine technology. In October 2008, the VX-200 prototype achieved ful power using Argon as propellant in the Ad Astra's Houston laboratory.
VASIMR video at full power in 2009.
But, just what are you going to hang the VASIMR onto? Now this is where Orion as a test vehicle makes sense to me.
Or, another off-the-wall idea I had was to convert one of the space shuttles into a deep space exploration craft. Basically, you cut the wings off since the vehicle will never again return to the surface of Earth. Instead, it will be "home ported" at the International Space Station. This new craft will be launched in the normal space shuttle fashion and dock with the ISS. Replacement (fully fueled) fuel tanks will be launched up to the ISS and mated to the shuttle where the wings used to be, whenever it needed for a mission. The payload bay will contain the docking adaptor, airlock, and the pressurized mission module. The flight deck would be gutted and all the avionics developed for Orion will now be installed in this new exploration craft.
Now THAT type of craft I envision would benefit from the VASIMR technology.
UPDATE: February 26, 2010- Blue Origin, the outfit that Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos created announced on Space.com additional information on their New Shepard, a Vertical Take-Off and Landing rocket. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35603622/ns/technology_and_science-space/).
Ref. Business Week. February 24, 2010. "Obama Will Work With Congress on Mars Plan, NASA Chief Says" by Jeff Bliss.(http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-02-24/obama
comcast.net, February 25, 2010. by Seth Borenstein (AP).
NASA website, anti-matter (http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/home/antimatter_spaceship.html).