Thursday, August 31, 2006

Does this depress anybody else?

Lockheed Martin has been named government contractor to build a new manned spacecraft to go to the moon. Lockheed is slated to build perhaps 8 spacecraft by 2019, with a moon landing to take place in late 2019 or early 2020.

Why am I depressed? Well, if you recall the original race to the moon in the 60's, it took the U.S.A. 8 years from the word "Go!" given by President Kennedy to a manned lunar landing. Now we're talking 13-14 years. Granted, the objective is to build a lunar base as a jumping off point for a mission to Mars. But it's a long time, and there isn't any national movement behind it; it's simply another government program.

I would be far happier if the guvmint spent the umpteen billion dollars it's going to award Lockheed on prizes to private companies that can keep a group of people on the moon for a specified period. Jerry Pournelle has mentioned this incentive-based system many times.

Besides, while NASA is paying those billions to Lockheed, imagine how many more billions it's going to spend on itself. The Space Shuttle program is going to peter out once the International Space Station is completed; but do you think that NASA will shrink? If you do then you don't know much about how bureaucracies work.

The new spacecraft is called Orion. It's described as "Apollo on steroids". I just can't help but wonder about Lockheed's attempt to build the X-33 spaceplane: $933 million and no spaceplane. It was a government contract on steroids. Nothing has to actually be produced as long as the bureaucracy is fully employed.

Government should stay out of the rocket business. Come to think of it, government should stay out of the housing market and the drug trade and the energy business...

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