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Engineers designing NASA's next moon rocket denied that the human space flight program dubbed "Constellation" is too expensive, too risky and would unnecessarily delay man's return to space. The engineers defended their work to a committee appointed by President Barack Obama to review what's planned once the current shuttle program is retired. The head of the office that has spent four years designing the next U.S. rocket, called "Ares," told members of the committee that the current design was the safest, fastest way to get Americans back to space.
It's not so much small minded people as Griffin indicated, it's narrow minded people who pose a threat to manned space flight. There are those who would like nothing better than to shut down all manned space flight programs. Any space exploration would then become a token, easily postponed and cancelled because of "budgetary" constraints. People simply cannot make up their minds regarding science and our future.
I have been persuaded by a number of critiques of the Aries and Orion program that it is misguided and pretty much another 'horse designed by a committee' like the space shuttle. Worse, it is a committee operating in a politically dominated environment.
I consider the space shuttle to be (have been) a phenomenal waste of time, money and personnel. An ISS program supported by Saturn V launch vehicles evolved over the same time period would have been safer, far less expensive and far more productive in terms of both science and maintaining the US lead in space.
Russia was forced by political and economic realities to 'scale back' their program, but by relying on proven technology, their skeleton program will be the one supplying the ISS for years to come after we retire the shuttle.
Buzz Aldrin's proposed program to skip the moon (been there, done that) and focus on getting to Mars using proven updated tech and a stepping stone approach including visiting the comets is well thought out and far more practical than the NASA Aries/Orion program. (See Popular Mechanics August 2009 for the short version of Aldrin's proposal.)
I even like the thought of sending volunteers on a one-way pioneering trip to Mars with the full intention of their establishing a sustainable 'colony'. I wager it would take about 30 minutes to collect a surfeit of volunteers via Twitter and only a few months to assemble a group of qualified 'Martians' ready and willing to accept the challenge. After all , they would be accepting a lower level of risk than gang-bangers sign up or every day. Risks possibly more in line with early seafaring explorers.
And once we established a colony, I anticipate there would be political will to sustain it.
Let's quit loitering around the 'neighborhood' and get on with moving men into the Solar system and eventually the stars.