Former US Marine Corp Major-General Charles Bolden must by now be reflecting upon the military axiom, no plan survives contact with an enemy. In this case Bolden's enemies are the Congressmen and women hell bent on not accepting the president Barack Obama spaceflight plan
Now the Wall Street Journal reports of a NASA memo talking about plan Bs
So what could Bolden's boys and girls come up with? They might want to use the draft bill's contents as a guide. Why not pre-empt the bill and have an ISS assessment carried out immediately that will address the ideas of Shuttle extension and crew and cargo transportation needs for the flying laboratory?
Let's not beat around the bush, the politicians are concerned about jobs both within NASA and of those supplying the agency. They want centers maintained and industry supported. So what could be done considering a $19 billion budget?
- Wind down Shuttle slowly with fewer flights per year and a shift to two orbiters
- Augustine recommended a flight proven booster for the commercial crew program, use NASA resources to help develop the modified Atlas V for that
- Rapidly select a heavy lift concept and fund it for post-2020 deployment
- Rename Orion the Deep Space Exploration Vehicle by adding a habitat module to it
- lastly provide a sliding scale of delivery based on NASA funding increases that Congress can understand
To keep Shuttle going will avoid massive job losses at a time when there are mid term elections. At least adding the mooted STS-135 flight would give some workers a breathing space. With this heavy lift, Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle and related Orion work there is plenty for the NASA centers to be getting on with and entrepreneurial companies still have a chance with crew and cargo transport