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Submission + - Budget Problems Produce Useful Ferment at NASA (popularmechanics.com)

YIAAL writes: Writing on the Popular Mechanics website, Rand Simberg reports from the Space 2009 conference. While NASA's plans for a heavy lift vehicle are looking ever more tenuous, previously excluded players are coming forward with genuinely creative — and commercially oriented — ideas that will do more for less.

ULA's plan is to develop propellant depots, lunar injection stages, and lunar landers derived from the existing Delta IV and Atlas V launchers, and to launch all the pieces with those vehicles (or perhaps slightly larger versions of them). The proposed lunar lander has dual-axis thrusters, allowing it to use main propulsion vertically for most of the descent, and then rotate for a horizontal landing. This puts the astronauts much closer to the lunar surface for safer entry and exits. The depots are placed in low Earth orbit and in the Earth-moon Lagrange point L2. ULA claims that their plan will provide a robust launch architecture, with two human-rated vehicles (rather than depending on one, as NASA has with the shuttle, and with its plans for Ares I) . . . . These ideas, from "A Commercially Based Lunar Architecture," one of the ULA papers, would have been heretical a few months ago . . . These papers may well mark the final nails in the Ares and Constellation coffin, signaling that this fall could see yesterday's heresy become tomorrow's new conventional wisdom.

Will these new ideas catch on? Or will NASA defend existing rice bowls to the end?

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Budget Problems Produce Useful Ferment at NASA

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Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein