NASA had told Hyperbola its administrator Charles Bolden was not going to be available here in Daejeon, Korea but a bit of persistence goes a long way and over a few minutes after the heads of agency plenary session Bolden gave away some interesting details about his thinking on the future of US human spaceflight policy
What was surprising was the degree to which Bolden had clearly already decided that Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles were not going to be a part of that future. Despite this journalist’s prodding about the interest shown in EELVs during the Augustine review Bolden was very clear, they were not man rated and multiple launch scenarios with LEO rendezvous and docking was just a no-no; so this was one former two-star US Marine Corp general this blogger decided it was not worth arguing with
But even before the EELVs were outright rejected Bolden was adamant beyond LEO exploration needed a heavy lift vehicle. One wonders what heavy lift vehicle exactly is being costed by the agency, Bolden was guided away by his minders at this point, but the other elements that Bolden was describing match very closely the Augustine summary report’s option two; making the heavy lift vehicle the Ares V lite
And of course this also means propellant depots are unlikely to see the light of day evey 45min either
To date this blog has been expecting a decision on US human spaceflight policy before Christmas so that the new policy could be incorporated into the FY2011 budget. Remember when the FY2010 budget request talked of a second budgetary submission to Congress following the review? But if a decision is months off – well there is universal health care and a new Afgan war strategy to sort out first – then appropriations specifically for this new policy may not appear until FY2012. And what does that mean for the Augustine committee’s $2.5 billion commercial crew proposal, or any commercial transportation initiative?
So “Yes we can” now has less immediacy to it and for NASA it’s now more of “Yes, in due course”