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SpaceX's "COTS-like" deep space exploration proposal

Discussion in 'SpaceX' started by Nikxice, Jul 15, 2017.

  1. Nikxice

    Nikxice Member

    Oct 31, 2014
    Hudson, NH
    On Thursday Elon tweeted a link to a Senate subcommittee hearing on the future of space exploration. I don't believe it received much attention, but it could have a significant impact the future of manned spaceflight.
    Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement
    From the website there is a pdf file available to read the testimony given by a SpaceX VP Tim Hughes. His statement is a bit lengthy, but I believe there are a couple of points that cover new ground for SpaceX.

    Hughes first discusses the success of the COTS program, noting the leadership role SpaceX has taken in reducing costs, thereby saving taxpayer money. Page 7 is where it gets interesting. Hughes proposes a "COTS-like program", whereby NASA contributes a portion of the funds for commercial businesses like SpaceX to develop and compete for deep space exploration projects. He argues that in parallel with NASA's own efforts, public-private partnerships would increase the likelihood of achieving success.

    A new wrinkle for SpaceX is their receptiveness to the idea of returning to the lunar surface before Mars. From Hughes, "A permanent human presence on the Moon presents humanity’s next obvious foothold outside of Earth. However, rather than look back to the Moon alone, the United States should also lead the world to the next great destination: Mars." He adds, "A Moon-Mars initiative that leverages the strengths of the U.S. government and the strengths of the private sector and invests in America’s workforce will create new, high-paying American jobs in dozens of states—but most importantly, it will move the Nation’s space exploration goals meaningfully forward." And for good measure, "To run in parallel with existing programs and increase the probability of success of establishing initial human presence on the Moon or Mars within the next in eight years to ten years, NASA could build upon the already demonstrated successful COTS model"

    A few thoughts to ponder. Will this lobbying effort by SpaceX turn out to be effective? If Congress and NASA act on this proposal might it sooner derail the STS/Orion program? Also, perhaps building a bridge to some public funding will answer the critics who don't believe that SpaceX can go it alone in an effort to colonize Mars.

    Coming from the Apollo era I'm a bit biased, but if this proposal helps get us to Mars quicker, then I'm all in.
    • Informative x 5
  2. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

    Sep 21, 2013
    San Mateo, CA
    I see that statement perhaps a bit differently than you may. I think that SpaceX remains focused on its mission of establishing a permanent, sustainable human colony on Mars. I believe that Hughes is simply saying that "Yes it can appear obvious that the Moon is the first step for the human exploration of the solar system, but in fact the real destination is Mars" for the many reasons that Elon has been talking about for years.

    I think the primary goal of Hughes testimony is to nudge the thinking of Congress towards the idea that, given how well programs like COTS have turned out, NASA should now seriously considering partnering with commercial companies like SpaceX to undertake missions beyond LEO, and that SpaceX believes that it can help NASA achieve its stated goal to put humans on Mars and at a far lower cost."

    That all seems obvious to me. But of course there are powerful forces against that idea, including Congresspeople with ULA businesses in their district or state.

    With that testimony, SpaceX is publicly challenging ULA and the STS and saying "We can do it much cheaper and faster for you, so let's establish a formal partnership to get to Mars."
    • Like x 3
  3. JeffK

    JeffK Well-Known Member

    Apr 27, 2016
    I'm just interested in how quickly we can start mining asteroids.
    • Like x 2

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