Every once in a while something irritates me so badly I have to vent. So here goes. A week or so ago VP Pence and NASA announced the names of astronauts who will be part of the team which will land on the moon in 2024.
NASA and the White House are still claiming they’re going to return people to the moon in 2024, even though everyone, including most of the people at NASA, know that the chances of that actually happening in 2024 are pretty close to zero.
The breathtakingly, mind numbingly expensive SLS launch system (the last cost estimate I heard was that an SLS launch will cost $2 billion. Billion. Per launch.)that’s supposed to be used for this hasn’t even been fully tested yet. They might, might have a test launch of the SLS “sometime” in 2021, perhaps November. I should point out that it is already more than 3 years behind schedule. It was supposed to fly in 2017. And now it looks like it quite possibly won’t fly until well into 2022. And perhaps not even then.
The Orion space craft that’s supposed to carry people… It’s been under development for 15 years now. Fifteen years. And it has flown into space once and preliminary testing is still turning up significant problems, especially with the software and electronic systems. The latest on that is that an electronic component failed in the PDU, and it could take up to a full year just to replace that single component.
And then there is Gateway. This is a bare bones orbital platform in orbit around the Moon. Eventually astronauts will not go directly to the moon, but instead dock at Gateway, which is going to be a sort of mini space station. From Gateway they will use a lunar lander to make the actual descent to the surface of the moon. The first flight to the moon apparently won’t require Gateway, which is good because Gateway, like large parts of this entire system, doesn’t actually exist.
The first flight or two will be stand alone missions, not requiring Gateway. They’ll descend in a lunar lander they’ll bring with them…
Oh, wait a minute, and they don’t actually have a lunar lander, either, do they?. Three different companies are working to develop three entirely different landers. And none of them actually have built an actual lander. Well, okay, they have a mock up of one, which is something. I guess.
So here we are just a few days away from 2021. NASA and the White House claim that we’re going to land people on the Moon before the end of 2024. Using a launch system that is already years behind schedule, 60% over budget, and hasn’t even test flown yet, with human beings in a spacecraft that hasn’t been successfully tested yet, using a lunar lander that doesn’t exist yet. And the first test flight isn’t scheduled until late 2021 and, more probably mid 2022. And which will cost $2 billion per launch.
And they’re going to do all of this before the end of 2024.
Now if they pull this off, I will be thrilled. I skipped school several times to watch the original moon landings. I’m a SF fan. I’m an amateur astronomer. I love anything to do with space exploration. But please excuse me for being just a wee bit skeptical here.