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“Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin Criticizes Artemis Program, Calls for Faster Moon Return”

Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has criticized NASA’s Artemis Program and called for a faster return to the Moon. In a hearing before the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, Griffin expressed his concerns about the complexity and cost of the program, as well as the compromise to crew safety and the high mission risk. He argued that NASA should focus on getting back to the basics and returning to the Moon as quickly as possible to beat China’s competing lunar program.

Griffin outlined his plan for an accelerated lunar mission, which includes two launches of the Space Launch System Block II rocket, a Centaur III upper stage, an Orion spacecraft, and a two-stage lunar lander. According to Griffin, this approach could put US-led expeditions on the Moon by 2029. He proposed relying on Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman to achieve this goal.

However, there are significant challenges and uncertainties with Griffin’s plan. The independent Augustine Commission found that NASA’s human spaceflight program was on an unsustainable trajectory in 2009. The development of the Block I version of the Space Launch System took 12 years and $30 billion, making it unlikely that two upgraded Block II rockets would be ready by 2029. Additionally, the lunar lander has not been designed or funded, and past performance suggests it would take a decade and billions of dollars to develop.

Interestingly, Griffin was instrumental in launching the commercial space revolution during his tenure as NASA Administrator. He created the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, which funded the development of cargo spacecraft by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. However, he has since turned against the commercial space industry and criticized NASA’s funding of companies. He believes that the assumption of leveraging commercial space for national purposes is flawed and not applicable to human spaceflight.

As part of his plan, Griffin suggests terminating the contracts awarded to SpaceX and Blue Origin by NASA. He argues that continuing programs that will not achieve the desired goals distracts from what needs to be done and damages NASA’s reputation. However, this proposal is ironic considering that when the Constellation contracts were canceled in 2009, Griffin fought to pay termination costs to the contractors.

In contrast to Griffin’s plan, NASA’s current Artemis program aims to bring together traditional and commercial space industries in the United States. It also emphasizes international partnerships through the Artemis Accords. While there may be challenges and setbacks along the way, NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin are working towards a future of affordable spaceflight by developing reusable launchers, in-space refueling, and reusable spacecraft and landers.

Ultimately, the goal is to establish a permanent presence on the Moon and set the norms for lunar exploration. China’s potential mission to the Moon is unlikely to establish these norms with a single two-day mission. The nations that invest in sustained lunar exploration will be the ones to shape the future of space exploration.

In conclusion, while Griffin’s plan for a faster return to the Moon may seem appealing at first glance, it faces significant challenges and risks. NASA’s current Artemis program, with its focus on collaboration and sustainable exploration, offers a more promising path forward. By embracing commercial partnerships and looking towards the future of space exploration, NASA can establish a lasting presence on the Moon and pave the way for affordable spaceflight in the 21st century.


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