The Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee has released it’s long awaited report (PDF) and it states that the U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. However if NASA had a less-constrained budget with increasing annual expenditures by approximately $3 billion in real purchasing power they could sustain a viable exploration program.
The Committee identified the following questions that, if answered, would form the basis of a plan for U.S. human spaceflight:
1. What should be the future of the Space Shuttle?
2. What should be the future of the International Space Station (ISS)?
3. On what should the next heavy-lift launch vehicle be based?
4. How should crews be carried to low-Earth orbit?
5. What is the most practicable strategy for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit?
The committee then offered three option paths:
– Mars First, with a Mars landing, perhaps after a brief test of equipment and procedures on the Moon.
– Moon First, with lunar surface exploration focused on developing the capability to explore Mars.
– A Flexible Path to inner solar system locations, such as lunar orbit, Lagrange points, near-Earth objects and the moons of Mars, followed by exploration of the lunar surface
and/or Martian surface.
It appears that the Felixble Path Options has garnered the support of many of the committee members and some within industry.
At this point it’s up to the White House and the Obama administration what direction NASA takes. NASA, the public and many interested parties around the world await their decision.