Some planetary scientists, former astronauts and former NASA division directors are planning to meet at Stanford University in February to propose an alternative space vision to the one laid out by President Bush and currently being implemented by NASA.
Top U.S. planetary scientists, several astronauts and former NASA division directors will meet privately at Stanford University on Feb. 12-13 to define these sweeping changes to the NASA/Bush administration Vision for Space Exploration (VSE).
Abandoning the Bush lunar base concept in favor of manned asteroid landings could also lead to much earlier manned flights to Mars orbit, where astronauts could land on the moons Phobos or Deimos.
Their goals for a new array of missions also include sending astronauts to Lagrangian points, 1 million mi. from Earth, where the Earth's and Sun's gravity cancel each other out and spacecraft such as replacements for the Hubble Space Telescope could be parked and serviced much like Hubble.
The "alternate vision" the group plans to offer would urge far greater private-sector incentives to make ambitious human spaceflight plans a reality.
There's a lot that makes sense in this agenda as described in the article. The current exploration launcher architecture is facing serious technical issues and budgetary shortfalls and should certainly be re-evaluated. Accelerating human missions to the asteroids and the Lagrange points would really help open the frontier and spur the growth of a spacefaring civilization. Finally, enabling greater private sector involvement is most critical to creating a spacefaring civilization by making space activities affordable and profitable.
The major flaw I see in this group's vision, at least in the general way it is described in this article, is the seeming dismissal of lunar exploration having any significant value in the future development of space. Paul Spudis and Dennis Wingo make a case for the Moon playing a vital role for the development of space and providing benefits to humanity. If the lunar program is bogging down our space exploration efforts, it's the implementation that's the problem, not the role of the Moon itself.
It will be interesting to see where this group's vision will go after the Stanford meeting. While not flawless, this group and their agenda can contribute to a re-evaluation and revitalization of the vision for our future in space.