Saturday, December 11, 2010
Dr. Zubrin On The SpaceX Success
On Wednesday, Sputnik flew again. Once again the technological establishment was shown up, this time not by uppity “Russkies”, but by uppity “Yanks”. With the orbital flight and landing of its Falcon 9/Dragon combination, the SpaceX team, led by Elon Musk, accomplished a feat previously reserved for major governments. They did it on a budget one-tenth the size and a schedule one-quarter the length of that assumed as necessary by conventional bureaucratic planners in America.
The Falcon-9 medium-lift booster (capable of launching 10 tons to orbit) and Dragon capsule (potentially capable of upgrade to transporting up to 7 astronauts) system was created on a combined budget on the order of two hundred million dollars. Last year, Elon Musk told the Augustine Commission that he could develop a heavy lift vehicle (HLV) for $2.5 billion. The Commission chose to ignore him, instead insisting that HLV development would cost $36 billion, and therefore both it, and any human Moon or Mars exploration programs that might require it, are beyond the nation’s means for the coming decade. But yesterday’s flight put the lie to such counsels of despair.
They say it can’t be done, but SpaceX shows that it can. If a ten ton to orbit system can be developed for $200 million, then 100 tons for $2 billion is definitely in the cards. Those embarrassed by SpaceX should take up its challenge and resolve to raise their mettle to meet its test. A new standard has been set.
Hear the call. Beep, beep. Sputnik flies again."
Dr. Robert Zubrin is President of the Mars Society.
From The Mars Society Newsletter (December 2010)