Ok, Dragon is hooked up to the ISS and orbiting us as we speak. I think it’s about time for someone to throw out some crazy prospects for how we can use this new piece of equipment to get us to the moon or Mars.
Oh wait here we go: The Space Review
While I believe it’s important to have a vision that involves other plants/planetoids, I think everyone is getting a little ahead of themselves. But that raises the question, where do we go from here? Here are a few thoughts I’ve come up with:
Competition: Nothing makes a company work harder to improve it’s product and prices like competition. Continuing to develop things like SLS and the plethora of space planes out there will only help in the long run.
Ops Tempo: In the beginning of the Space Shuttle Days NASA knew they had to launch a lot to make their new system reasonably cost-efficient. Over eager managers abused this tempo and we got Challenger as a result. But (big but here) there is room for increasing the frequency with which we launch. If nothing more than to keep everyone’s skills sharp and hardware moving we need to launch more.
A Purpose: Right now we have the ISS up there for nothing other than research. Research is extremely important, but it can’t be the only reason we go. On orbit power generation can be done remotely; same with improved communications. Micro-gravity manufacturing hold promise but is so far untested and has a host of problems never addressed before. Right now about the only monetary gain in going into space is for resource mining. We find a way to make money in space and people on Earth will demand we go there.
The funny thing is that by finding number three, numbers one and two will grow organically. So what we really need to do is cement in our public mind that going to space is good for the global economy. This will drive people to launch more and new start-ups will find ways of keeping the established companies on their toes.
Going to Mars sounds fun and exciting but to throw these things around are ultimately not helpful. Before any serious attempts at exploring the solar system with our own eyes we need to develop a strong orbital infrastructure beyond one new company and their cool new capsule.