Testifying before the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond at the Georgia Centers for Advanced Telecommunications Technology in Atlanta, GA, Teal Group senior space analyst Marco Caceres yesterday recommended that one way to improve the long-term sustainability of President Bush's new Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) is to "de-link" the Moon-Mars missions and aim to accomplish each of them in timeframes of within 10 years.
"It is fine to have a broad plan to send manned missions to the Moon and then to Mars, but if you keep linking the two, we project that the public will get confused by 'information overload' and eventually tire of hearing about this grand scheme that will take 20-30 years to achieve, as has been the case with the International Space Station," said Caceres.
A central issue which the President's Commission must address is how to sustain a long-term program of the magnitude of SEI. The Commission, which is tasked with developing a plan for implementation of the SEI, is scheduled to submit a report to the President in June. The contents of the report will be based, in part, on a series of hearings conducted throughout the US.
Caceres urged Commission Chairman Pete Aldridge and the other nine Commission members to use the International Space Station as a model of "how not to do a major space program."
"There are many lessons to learn from this model, and one of them is that in order to stay focused on and achieve a specific goal, the program must have a clear starting point and a clear ending point. And the closer those two points are to each other, the greater the probability of success ... assuming, of course, sufficient funding."
Caceres noted that the space industry tends to view the future in terms of 5-10 years out, not 20-30 years. He stressed the importance of working within 10-year timelines in order to maintain political support and hold the public's attention.
"The 'within-10-year first-launch timeline' is a pretty good place for NASA to start as it seeks to fill in the details of the Space Exploration Initiative. But the agency cannot do this unless the Moon-Mars efforts are clearly defined and marketed on their own specific merits ... starting with the Moon, since that's the mission that is most doable in a reasonable timeframe."
Caceres cautioned the Commission, "De-link the two missions, otherwise there is a better than even chance that you end up dooming both.
To receive a copy of Teal Group's testimony before the President's Commission, contact Doug Cornell, 703-573-5374, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Marco Caceres, 703-385-1992, x104, email@example.com.
Teal Group Corporation is a defense and aerospace consulting firm based in Fairfax, Virginia. It provides competitive market intelligence to industry and government.