Garver Graphically Illustrates Choices Between Constellation and the New Plan

Garver Graphically Illustrates Choices Between Constellation and the New Plan

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator, debuted a set of graphics illustrating the choices between the new plan for NASA proposed by President Obama and the current plan of pursuing the Constellation program during a speech last week at the American Astronautical Society’s Goddard Memorial Symposium.

The two Powerpoint slides show NASA’s view of its exploration program for the next 20 years (2010-2030) under the Obama proposal versus Constellation. The first slide – with the work NOTIONAL superimposed across the page – is very busy. It shows three sets of activities: commercial cargo and commercial crew flights to the International Space Station (ISS) through 2028, a robust “transformational R&D” effort with technology demonstration flights on the ISS and other “flagship” and “small” technology demonstration flights, and “sustainable exploration” including robotic precursor flights, heavy lift launch capability, in-space propulsion etc. The second slide is almost empty by comparison, showing the ISS and commercial cargo launches ending in 2016, Ares I/Orion beginning in 2015 with a notation that the Augustine committee said 2017, and Ares V beginning in 2024 with a notation that Augustine said 2028.

Deciphering the slides is challenging in some cases, especially in terms of answering the question of when human exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit would begin. It appears “sustainable, more capable” human exploration missions would begin in 2024 under the Obama plan, with Beyond-LEO Launch Capability and In-Space Transport Capability beginning the same year. Under the Constellation program as illustrated in the second slide, Ares V would be available in 2024 (or 2028 per Augustine), but there is no Altair lunar lander. A heavy lift launch vehicle is shown in the line labeled “human exploration missions” in 2028, but it is not clear exactly what it is designating.

The slides are likely to provoke debate about their accuracy and meaning, but if nothing else they provide insight into NASA’s strategy for building support for the new plan.

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