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- Human space flight in the US and other space-faring countries is faced with a twin challenge that is likely to persist for many years: flat or declining budgets along with an expectation of continuing, significant achievements. A partial solution may involve increased participation by multiple commercial competitors with the promise - albeit yet to be fully demonstrated - of much-reduced costs. That said, most commercial goals are concentrated on low-Earth orbit (LEO) for the time being, leaving human trips beyond Earth orbit (BED) as governmental initiatives. The past decade, beginning with the 1999/2000 Decadal Planning Team (DPT)/NASA Exploration Team (NExT) human space flight studies for the White House Office of Management and Budget (http://history.nasa.gov/DPT/DPT.htm), can arguably be described as a Golden Age of engineering design, strategic planning, technology capability prioritization, and development programs on the International Space Station (ISS). However, cynics have criticized the same period as little more than PowerPoint presentations, and unfocused technology investments with only limited progress toward a goal of human space flight beyond the immediate vicinity of the Earth. We disagree with the cynics. Experience with the ISS on increasingly sophisticated capabilities have prepared international partners to deploy a major "stepping stone" for human space flight: a habitation system in free space beyond low-Earth orbit. Such an achievement would be a major milestone in human space flight and, very likely, an essential demonstration site for subsequent, very ambitious exploration missions such as to Mars. Developing critical capabilities for human voyages beyond LEO, such as Earth-Moon libration points, offers, as just one example, easy return to Earth within days (see, e.g., Farquhar 1971 (Aeronautics & Astronautics, July, p. 59ff), Thronson, Lester, and Talay 2011 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1756/1), and Lester 2012 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1650/1). Use of Earth-Moon libration points as sites for early demonstrations of capabilities necessary for human missions to Mars, for example, contrasts sharply with using missions to near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) for that purpose.
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20120008261.
- Copyright, Distribution as joint owner in the copyright.
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