Frank Sietzen has an update out on the status of the conceptualization and anticipated development schedule for hardware for the Moon-Mars plan. Nothing in the article is surprising, but there are a few interesting items:
Hecker said NASA would choose two contractors and each would attempt to bring a prototype CEV — along with a separate booster rocket – into space by 2008…..When done, all of the study results would shape NASA’s Request for Proposals for the spaceships themselves, to be issued next year. The RFPs would include design of the rocket that would carry the CEVs.
What a coincidence…there just happen to be two large companies with which NASA has a close working relationship, which just happen to have the capabilities to develop CEV, and which just happen to each have a large rocket capable of launching it.
While this suggestion of a usual-suspects approach is not promising, NASA’s Moon-Mars interests aside from CEV are encouraging:
According to Lyles, NASA would place special emphasis on CEVs with system and subsystem components that are common to their Mars-bound future versions. He added that both the crewed rocket and the cargo version should have maximum common elements and compatibility as well.
Together with their industry partners, NASA also will attempt to identify equipment and systems that astronauts will need to live and work on other worlds. First and foremost will be new atomic powerplants that can provide light, heat and electricity, both to a moon or Mars base or to an interplanetary spaceship.
NASA personnel and contractors are studying new types of tools, spacesuits and roving vehicles, along with when to introduce each new technology and how to flight test it.
This is encouraging because it suggests that the agency is taking a ground-up approach, figuring out the practical details involved in performing the planned missions rather than focusing exclusively on the glamorous, high-concept fantasies that never seem to make it beyond the viewgraph stage.