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NASA extends Boeing’s contract to produce more SLS rockets

NASA yesterday announced that it will pay Boeing $3.2 billion for two more SLS rockets.

NASA has finalized its contract with Boeing of Huntsville, Alabama, for approximately $3.2 billion to continue manufacturing core and upper stages for future Space Launch System (SLS) rockets for Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.

Under the SLS Stages Production and Evolution Contract action, Boeing will produce SLS core stages for Artemis III and IV, procure critical and long-lead material for the core stages for Artemis V and VI, provide the exploration upper stages (EUS) for Artemis V and VI, as well as tooling and related support and engineering services.

All this really means is that NASA is going depend on SLS and Orion to fly its astronauts to and from the Moon, and because of that its pace of flight will be — at best — slow and long-drawn out. For example, this new order extends the contract out to 2028. It will thus leave plenty of time for SpaceX and other nations to get there first.

I predict that the private Starship missions paid for by Yusaku Maezawa and Jared Isaacman will both fly before these two new Artemis missions. You heard it here first.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Tom Billings

    This does set up a future in which NASA are not the people who go to the Moon the most often. They just set up the infrastructure for others to do so, using the HLS version of Starship, and the standard passenger version and tanker versions. Eventually, that can allow NASA to back out of their deal with Boeing and its patrons in the Senate, after Ballast Bill retires, as he must, fairly soon.

    This keeps power to assign spending flows through NASA in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee for another 4-6 years. Then, they must find some other means for their power to be sustained, as their corporate vassals fall away through lack of productivity. Optionally, if SpaceX starts being pounded with complaints about monopoly, especially a monopoly not under the control of the Beltway, then they can start selling Starships to Boeing, as their first non-SpaceX Fleet Operator.

  • Gary


    I agree that Starship will be capable of getting to the moon before SLS/Orion, but does he have the political room to do so? Musk has the contract for landers. If SpaceX lands on the Moon and returns with Starship who blinks first, NASA, which may have no other way to get there or Musk, who risks losing that lander contract? Then, there’s the Lunar Gateway, which still has to be built and launched on something. Won’t one of those SLS rockets be needed for that? The NASA plan for getting to the Moon is such a Rube Goldberg contraption that it’s hard to see how even congress critters can’t see it as a dead end, unless, of course, they don’t care.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Why would SpaceX’s contract to land NASA on the Moon prevent them from doing it first themselves, unless perhaps NASA might be able to claim they diverted attention from NASA’s flight to their own? That has happened before as I recall.

    It is also my understanding that neither of the private SpaceX lunar flights will land, but OTOH it’s not clear to me if either will be more than a free-return flyby.

    As for SLS being required for Lunar Gateway, at least some components of LG will be delivered by Falcon Heavy, which is a change from original plans that did use SLS.

  • Gary H

    Bob is spot on, power politics are Musk’s biggest obstacle. He must conform to the left’s world view, or face governmental headwinds. The next two years will bring some clarity to this fight. The Chinese challenges might be even greater. Whatever the outcome, the world will be a different place by the time humans land on the Moon and who knows what will be passing as civilization by the time humans land on Mars. One thing for sure, Musk’s idea of having a plan ‘B’ for human habitation is a worthy goal.

  • Edward

    Bill Whittle was shocked to learn why it takes two years between Artemis launches. Apparently it was a decision made years ago in order to save a little money. (16 minutes)

    This is the article Whittle references: (page 1 of 4)

    Why is it that every major NASA project from the Space Shuttle to the ISS to Webb to Artemis has early decisions that do more harm than good to the budget and schedule?

  • Jeff Wright

    Artemis is flying…it is what we have.

    Bezos Branson and, yes—even Musk…are the polish on today’s Guilded Age rot in aerospace.

    The end of the 747 is proof that—when left alone—the profit motive is what dooms big thinking:

    Jack Welsh’s look at labor as a problem—not an asset—is what led to all this. SLS is not an anchor but a floatation device.

    Libertarian outsourcing gutted America…and where Reagan killed the Soviet Union—he MADE today’s China.

    Once again, ideologues fight their wars…Greens on the Left and Downsizers on the Right…but it is the common man that gets hurt.

    Though I do thank Mr. Zimmerman and his stalwart defense of free speech—I am afraid I must use same to declare his libertarian outlook on spaceflight as the problem, and not the solution.

    Spaceflight has always been on the margins—and it took the Soviet war machine to launch the first satellite (ugh).

    I still think it may be government that is the only hope for American spaceflight. We saw the failure of SPACs and how venture capitalists run from aerospace’s up-front costs—and even Musk talked about bankruptcy.

    But no one ever went broke betting on the energy sector or big pharma long term. The latter used government to (sadly) foist products on us.

    I say beat them at their own game.

    Mandate that all virology (game-of-function at least) be done off world to prevent another Covid and to force the Faucis of the world to be space advocates whether they want to be or not. The Right hates him and Big Pharma (at the moment).

    The Left hates big oil…and the Peak oil folks will be right one day—so both should be forced to fund space expansion.

    Space advocates have been far too nice.

    Time to grow teeth.

  • Libertarian outsourcing gutted America

    You know what was a big driver of that, Jeff?

    A century of Big Labor being more focused on what they could GET through politics and arm-twisting, than on the actual productivity their members could DELIVER … exacerbated by government interventions supposedly instituted to help/protect “the little guy”, or “save the planet”, or “for the children”.

    That led millions among us to become complacent dependents who were led to simply punch in, do (just the minimum of) what they’re told, and punch out each day … instead of taking the initiative to look beyond what they’re told to add to the efficiency and productivity of their employer and keep their jobs here.

    We have led too many to think that they have a right to work the same job the same way in the same place for their entire life time, yet still expect others their employer, their union, and their government to secure their prosperity.

    Even when that might require turnip exsanguination.

    In doing the above, they end up highly vulnerable to the failures of those they trusted … while those who don’t buy into this paradigm can still prosper in this nation, even they have to bear more of a burden than necessary thanks to this hierarchical paradigm.

    To such as these, responsibility and initiative are only required from those with deeper pockets than they.

    That does not reflect human reality.

    I still think it may be government that is the only hope for American spaceflight

    They probably said the same thing about ocean-bound exploration in the 1500’s too. But at least the governments then didn’t get stuck in that rut.

  • Edward

    I asked: “Why is it that every major NASA project from the Space Shuttle to the ISS to Webb to Artemis has early decisions that do more harm than good to the budget and schedule?

    I had intended that to be rhetorical, but the answer is that these are political decisions, often based upon the politics of budgeting. How do you save a few dollars? Answer: by limiting possibilities for decisions that come later. When conditions change and and the reasoning for the previous decision becomes obsolete, why not revisit that decision? Because then you would be constantly questioning decisions and the plans, designs, and methods would continually be in flux. No decision would mean anything, and eventually the project is never completed. What is the difference between that scenario and ISS (which took 3 times longer and cost three times as much than originally scheduled), Webb (which took twice as long and cost twice as much), and SLS (which took 2-1/2 times as long and cost twice as much)?

    That is another question that I consider to be rhetorical.

    The good news, however, is that NASA has been getting more and more efficient and effective with its manned projects, over time. Project Apollo (I include Mercury, Gemini, and Skylab with this) cost a similar amount to the Shuttle and ISS, but we didn’t get much time and experimentation in space (although it was unique). The Space Shuttle project gave us much more time and experimentation, and the ISS (total cost when deorbited will exceed $150 billion, which is less than the Shuttle) gave us even more time and experimentation. However, we should expect the private commercial space stations and manned spacecraft to give even better return for the money, as they should cost significantly less, and with the commercialization of space, we should also expect to receive manufactured goods that greatly improve our lives.

    The Shuttle and the ISS were hampered with politics, slowing them down, raising their costs, and reducing their productivity. Being international, decisions for ISS require political negotiations between governments. Now we have SLS, which is touted as providing a sustainable manned base on the Moon, although a single annual launch of four people to the Moon seems to me as less sustainable as the ISS’s three or four annual launches. ISS easily gives us a continuous manned presence in orbit, but SLS will be hard pressed to give a continuous manned presence on the Moon. In addition, the Artemis Accords turns the use of SLS into yet another political football, used for political gain, not scientific gain, and NASA continues to be reluctant for its hardware to be used for commercial purposes, for products that would directly benefit we earthlings.

    What we seem to be spending our tax money on, in space, is for political gain, not for the gain of those of us on earth. That may seem right and good, that government money should be spent for the benefit of the government, but that is somewhat outside the scope of the U.S. government, the purpose of which is spelled out in the Preamble of the Constitution. If NASA were being used for the general welfare or to help secure the blessings of liberty, then its use would be correct, but if it is being used to help politicians and bureaucrats, then it is being abused.

    As we have seen, when we let government do things, we get what government wants. Now that We the People are doing things in space, we are beginning to get what we want.

  • Tom Billings

    Jestor said:

    “I still think it may be government that is the only hope for American spaceflight”

    “They probably said the same thing about ocean-bound exploration in the 1500’s too. But at least the governments then didn’t get stuck in that rut.”

    Actually, they *did* get stuck in that same rut, for about 250 years. In the 1520s, the Hapsburgs farmed out New Spain’s trade to the Fuggers Banking Syndicate, and the rest of Europe followed suit, in France, among the Dutch, and the English used the BEIC. It was mostly a repeat of the practice of chartered monopolies used in European Sea-borne trade that got started in the 12th century. They were a convenient source of funding and political support when rulers needed political support.

    It lasted until the “Interlopers” on the BEIC monopoly could navigate deep into the Southern Ocean away from BEIC patrols and coastal supply stations, and go directly to those they could trade with, and then home again, by 1750. By 1765, Adam Smith, a BEIC clerk, was studying this. By 1776, he published his study as “The Wealth of Nations”, which became a near instant best seller in Britain, because he showed that the “Interlopers'” lower prices were doing the British economy far more good than the BEIC did good for Britain’s rulers. From that point, it took 60 years to get rid of the legal monopoly of the BEIC.

    *Then* the “rut” became unstuck.

    The agency costs of Congress in spaceflight are the rut we have been stuck in for 50 years, in which their corporate vassals serve as funnels for money they pour into their dependent voters in their political districts, using NASA contracts, even more than they have done with the defense industry. The reaction against SpaceX is linked to the Congress members defense of the SLS program that has openly bragged they have sub-contractors in every State in the US. It is an example of their power, and power unused is power diminished, … and they live and breathe for power.

    The fight for freer markets in spaceflight has just begun. The assumption, that government is a necessary part of spaceflight is strong, even though the growth of private investment over the last 5 years has always outpaced growth in NASA’s budget. The struggle, between those who believe that dependence is stronger, and those who believe that freedom is stronger, is about to become nova-hot.

  • Mitch S.

    Jeff W,
    I appreciate your attempts to defend “old space” and those working within.
    And I don’t think the criticisms here are aimed at all those working at NASA and it’s contractors.
    I’m sure there are capable people, who came in with a level of excitement and dedication… but Jeff Ars Technica , you seem to have connections there, tell us are the engineers there really happy? I have to figure there is a level of burnout and resignation to plodding along, feeding the bureaucratic machine.

    when Jack Welch started running GE it was an ossified company with a bloated management. GE needed pruning and a cattle prod up it’s rear to get moving. (The problem was Welch’s proteges Nardelli, McNerney, Stonecipher didn’t understand efficiency had to be coupled with desirable product – they thought they could cut/chop any company to greater profits.)
    Profits aren’t the enemy, for private company they are a necessity.
    The 747 wasn’t developed for altruistic reasons. It was done to make money – with the understanding that reward requires risk.
    The 747, 707, SpaceX Falcon, did benefit from Gov’t contracts but those programs weren’t run by the gov’t

    Read the Ars Technica article Edward linked to. SLS is a gov’t run program.
    LockMart shaved $100 million by not building half a dozen black boxes? So they cost over $10 million each?!
    Over a billion dollars for a a launch tower?
    The objectives for Constellation/SLS changed over the years but in the early 2000’s one absolute need was clear. The shuttle was being retired and the US needed a way to get people to/from ISS. The solution was supposed to use current hardware to quickly put together a system on a reasonable budget. Instead SLS became SLS and NASA turned to a “proven” space contractor Boeing and as a backup, the upstart, private company SpaceX. So now SpaceX is our only “broomstick” to ISS (no billion dollar towers needed).

    More gov’t mandates to fund more gov’t programs?

  • Mitch S.

    “Jeff Ars Technica”
    I meant just “Jeff”. Shows what happens when trying to type out something through multiple distractions

  • Edward

    Jeff Wright misstated: “The end of the 747 is proof that—when left alone—the profit motive is what dooms big thinking:

    The end of the 747 is proof that, when left alone, the profit motive is the reward for increased efficiency. This is even bigger thinking. If we were not going to make improvements, then we would still be flying Wright Brothers airplanes — and the first one, at that. The 747 is a nostalgic aircraft, but it is not as efficient as some more modern aircraft. We could continue to build and buy the 747, but at what cost? It is one thing to have flying museum pieces, such as the B-17, but it is another to use them in commerce.

    We saw the failure of SPACs and how venture capitalists run from aerospace’s up-front costs—and even Musk talked about bankruptcy.

    The failure of some SPACs. There are failures in all industries, and to expect commercial space to have none is unrealistic.

    Space advocates have been far too nice.

    Thank you, but we have been nice by advocating commercial space, where government money is not used for commercial profit and profits come from products that are useful to we earthlings. Government has brought us very little for the money spent, and this makes it look like advocates for the poor are right, that the money spent in space should go toward fighting poverty. Of course, we spend far more money fighting poverty than spent on space, but all we get is more poverty and less benefit from space.

    Instead of improving on the shortfalls of the Space Shuttle, government regressed to an Apollo-era launch vehicle that cannot launch as often as the Saturn could. This is what we get when we let government be in charge. Now that We the People are in charge (wherever government allows), we get improvement on and efficiency over other spacecraft, including the Shuttle. SpaceX is likely to make Starship operational, lifting as much into orbit as SLS can do, for far less cost and lower prices to the customer, and at a significantly higher launch cadence, and Starship will be even better than the capabilities of the Shuttle. This is what we get from the leadership of free market capitalism, profit as a reward, and the innovation of all seven billion people rather than the innovation of a small central-control group.

    Government failed us in space (and with poverty, too), so it is time for commercial space, profit, and innovation to show how we earthlings can be more prosperous through more efficient designs, methods, and operations.

    The freedom of the free market capitalist system, of the profit motivator, and of innovation allowed a backwoods village that literally could not feed itself to turn into, in only four hundred years, the powerhouse economy that saved the world from tyranny. Twice.

    It also brought us the great 747 at a time when it was a relatively efficient airplane.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I wonder what will happen when it becomes obvious that we will get to the moon after the Chinese if we go with NASA, or first with ease if we let SpaceX loose? It might depend on whether we have to endure another Biden term. Perhaps it’s time for Trump to speak up on this?

  • Jeff Wright

    I see Mr. Z failed to reports a good splashdown, so I will:


    What killed Apollo—along with Nixon, others…etc.
    —was a promise of reusability.

    And killing the Saturn’s kept us locked in LEO for half a century.

    And now we have the same claims again with Starship.

    Not buying it.

    Let reuse be a private deal—and you keep the sure thing.

    I’ve heard this all before…and it has taken decades for MSFC to claw its way back to something like Apollo—and I will scream bloody murder before the “let’s trash current capability for new promises” causes up to repeat the mistake of killing Apollo. The Saturn’s would have had us on Mars by now.

    As for all the labor bashing, I only had a place to live due to my Dad being UTU. Greens and strike-breakers are both alike in that they see their fellow man as a problem—not a resource…and I stand by that statement.

    Look, Congress, left to their own devices, will hit us with the bill for more social programs, oil-wars, what have you. But if we can get them to see a third way—space development—-we can at least get a return on investment. Apollo was the best thing that ever happened to this nation.

    And we can re-capture that can-do spirit again if space advocates quit the infighting. There never has been many of us. Ironically, it was the fractious nature of the Russian Chief Designers that kept them from the Moon—with each trying to undermine the other.

    Let us not repeat that mistake either.

  • Jeff Wright wrote, “I see Mr. Z failed to reports a good splashdown, so I will.”

    Y’know, you are a guest in my house, so it might be wise to not insult me in your writing. It is now the weekend, and I try not work in order to have energy for the week. I have only gotten back from a daylong hike, dinner, and other social activities. If you don’t like it that I have a life outside this webpage, you could go elsewhere.

    Just sayin’.


    Well, how else will there be unflown hardware to display in a museum?

  • Jeff, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy ALREADY demonstrate reusability and its economic value. It is now a question of scaling it up to Starship – and it has demonstrated that it can land intact, indicating that it too can be reused.

    Without reusability, we would and will be stuck with high costs and slow launch cadences. that will hobble our expansion into space.

    As for labor bashing …. that’s more like being honest about what organized labor entails. My father was a UAW skilled tradesman; I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly of organized labor through his eyes. While there are benefits to organizing, they can only exist if the employer stays productive and competitive in its presence.

    Just as government involvement holds us back in space, now that the purposes of space exploration go beyond the defense and foreign-policy objectives that drove Apollo and its predecessors … the extension of government into production, through its legal favoritism towards Big Labor’s desire to monopolize access to jobs, holds us back from leveraging our freedom to maximize our productivity – and thereby job security.

    And does so, while neither shortchanging our consuming neighbors nor becoming so complacent that we don’t adapt to competition before the pink slips come out.

  • Gary H

    Government will drive the militarization of space in response to the PLA trying to make space into an extension of the South China Sea. It will also slow, distort and increase expense through regulation of private industry. We have seen it all before.

  • Edward

    Mitch S. noted: “LockMart shaved $100 million by not building half a dozen black boxes? So they cost over $10 million each?!

    I think this is part of the point. Rather than save money by finding ways to reduce the cost of these eight electronics boxes, they “save” money by reducing the launch cadence. Reusing hardware is supposed to increase the launch cadence, not impede it. Meanwhile, NASA and each of its contractors has an army of people being paid to launch every other year rather than four or six or hundreds of times per year, which is why each launch is so expensive. This may also be why these boxes are so expensive, if the makers do not have enough business to amortize all those salaries over enough products to reduce the price of the products.

    There are fixed costs (e.g. the cost of the salaries of management or the rent of the building) and variable costs (e.g. the cost of the materials needed to make each product). When the fixed costs are amortized over a production rate of 1/2 unit per year, then the product is going to cost more than when those costs are amortized over a hundred products per year. This is yet another reason why Starship is expected to cost so little to launch. The army of employees at SpaceX is marching forward rather than standing in place.

    The price tag on each of these boxes seems excessive, more like the cost of development than the cost of routine manufacture. We have to wonder why Lockheed Martin cannot find less expensive vendors for these electronics. What is it about these electronics boxes that is so different than the ones that are used on other spacecraft, such as Dragon and Starliner? If they are unique to Orion, then the first box (of each of the eight) may cost this much, accounting for development costs, but surely the second should cost significantly less.

    This is yet another problem with cost-plus projects. There is no incentive to find efficient vendors.

    Jeff Wright,
    I don’t know what is going on in your life, right now, but you seem to have gotten rather emotional this past week. You keep making incorrect statements and your opinions seem to be off, too.

    What killed Apollo—along with Nixon, others…etc. —was a promise of reusability.

    I can see why you would think so, but at the time that Apollo was being killed, the reusable Space Shuttle was scrambling for support from the Air Force. Our elected officials — and even the Air Force — seemed unimpressed with reusability, and still seem that way. Space just wasn’t, and still isn’t, important to American politicians. Apollo had one job, and when that job was completed with Apollo 11, NASA lost the public’s interest. It was so bad that NASA started a magazine called Spinoffs in order to publicize the benefits American citizens got from the continuation of the space program. Today, space advocates are hard pressed to explain the benefits that we get from ISS that make it worth $150 billion.

    I’ve heard this all before…and it has taken decades for MSFC to claw its way back to something like Apollo—and I will scream bloody murder before the “let’s trash current capability for new promises” causes up to repeat the mistake of killing Apollo. The Saturn’s would have had us on Mars by now.

    Apollo was too expensive, which is why it was killed. Three decades ago, NASA came up with a plan to get to Mars by now, but it cost so much that Congress wouldn’t even consider the thought of funding it. The problem has always been cost, and it remains the problem to this day.

    What is a shame is that MSFC has had to claw its way back to Apollo. They should have clawed their way forward to a better Space Shuttle that would actually reduce costs, take large mass to orbit, and fly often. Those were the promises of the Shuttle, and those are why we thought that space would finally be opened up in the 1980s. The Apollo Applications Program did not have that same amount of promise.

    Apollo was the best thing that ever happened to this nation.

    No. The best thing that ever happened to this nation was Vermont banning all forms of slavery in 1777. That was the first time that any place on Earth outright banned slavery. It is an important development in the history of man, and it happened here, in this country.

    And we can re-capture that can-do spirit again if space advocates quit the infighting.

    You could lead by example and stop your own infighting, but somehow I get the impression that you really mean that those of us who favor free market capitalism and the improvements that come with it are supposed to give up our view and submit to your own view that MSFC should lead the way with the outdated Apollo-like, government-in-charge, central-control solution. The rest of us have seen that SpaceX has generated far more excitement about space than NASA has done in the past decade. I, for one, recommend that you give up the side that depends upon a reluctant government to fund space and move to the side that depends upon the enthusiastic free market capitalists who are eager to fund space, make space easier for everyone to reach, and are willing to make the most possible use of space.

  • Edward

    There is a major problem with supporting Artemis. It’s stated purpose is to provide a sustainable presence on the Moon, but it has been set up for failure of this goal. How can we advocate for space when we spend so much money on failed goals? How can we have a can-do spirit when our goals are unachievable with the projects we advocate?

    Artemis can put the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, but it cannot sustain their presence in the way that the ISS sustains man’s presence in low Earth orbit. At some point, Congress will come to realize this, but will they react the same way that they reacted to the inability of the Space Shuttle to live up to its promise? With the Shuttle, Congress chose to continue paying for this expensive but less effective vehicle. Unless they were willing to pay to develop a better vehicle — and they weren’t — they were stuck with the expensive one they had. They didn’t have to change NASA’s budget to keep the Shuttle, but it would cost much more to replace it with a better version. Cost was a major consideration.

    It was also stated that Orion could take man to Mars, but at best it can only take man to a (future) spacecraft that can take him to Mars.

    Some questions come to mind. If the Ars Technica article is right and the delay between Artemis launches is due to the Orion Spacecraft, then: is SLS capable of launching at a higher cadence than Orion? If so, then what other things can be planned for SLS?

    Six years ago, NASA put out a call for proposals for satellites, probes, telescopes, or other possible payloads for SLS. The silence wasn’t even broken by crickets. SLS is a budget breaker for any such project. However, Congress passed a law that required the unmanned mission to Europa, Europa Clipper, to launch on an SLS vehicle. Fortunately, SLS took so long to reach first launch that Congress rescinded that law in favor of any other launch vehicle that could handle the task in a timely manner.

    Congress wanted SLS and Orion. They wanted the capability that each provides. They didn’t care the cost or the delays, as it is their new toy. A president assigned them a mission, to return man to the Moon. NASA seems to have modified the mission to create a sustainable manned presence on the Moon. How long will Congress remain enamored with their new toy?

    Like Apollo, at some point SLS, Orion, and Artemis will seem too expensive to sustain. Most likely Gateway will seem too expensive, too.

    Unlike with the disappointing Space Shuttle, this time around there are alternatives. Dragon is already available, Starliner will soon be available, and Starship is required to be available in time for NASA’s first manned Artemis landing on the Moon. Once Congress realizes that Starship costs much less than Orion-SLS, how long will these two continue to be funded?

    Artemis, as designed, is unable to live up to its promises, just like the Space Shuttle turned out to do (at least the Shuttle was designed to succeed), and like the Shuttle Artemis can only explore space at a slow pace. The SLS rocket has nice capabilities, but it is too expensive and not available enough to be as useful as Congress originally intended. If Artemis is to achieve a sustained presence on the Moon, it will have to find less costly heavy lift launch vehicles and spacecraft, both of which will have to be able to launch a few times each year.

    If we are to move forward, if we are to avoid the costs of the past, we have to review what happened in the past and apply the lessons to the present to make a better future. We let government run space exploration, but what did that cost us? When could private space have taken over from government and found efficiencies and profits that the government didn’t? For communication satellites, this happened in the 1960s. Robert Truax thought that this could happen for launch vehicles in the 1980s, and Orbital Sciences tried it in the late 1980s. If government had not used the Space Shuttle to stifle launch companies, could the 1980s have seen reusable boosters, invented by companies similar to Blue Origin or SpaceX? Could the Shuttle have been replaced with better reusable spacecraft in the 1990s? Could launch costs have come down in the 1990s, when customers were begging for lower costs?

    Two decades ago, when the Space Shuttle was finally acknowledged as a failure, government did not move forward with better reusability but backward with less. Instead of reducing launch costs, government increased them.

    This is another reason to not support Artemis. It spends scarce resources pursuing the wrong way of doing things in space. It pursues governmental goals, not the things that would benefit we earthlings. It reinforces the impression that space has little or no usefulness to us, but the truth is that profits can be made by providing many benefits from space activity. The commercial space companies are finding these benefits and are pursuing them, finding profits along the way.

    The United States proliferated quickly because free market capitalism encourages improvements and innovations in the products that We the People want to use and buy. Space has provided few of these, because the government has stifled free market capitalism in space. After two thirds of a century in orbit, we should be getting far more benefits from space, benefits that free market capitalism can provide. Artemis continues to stifle this goal.

    If we are to advocate for space and have a can-do spirit, then we should be advocating success, not failure or impediments to that success.

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