The Augustine Commission released their Summary Report today, 8 September 2009.
The Commission ends the Introduction to the Summary Report as follows:
Key Questions to Guide the Plan for Human Spaceflight. The Committee identified the following questions that, if answered, would form the basis of a plan for U.S. human spaceflight:
- 1. What should be the future of the Space Shuttle?
- 2. What should be the future of the International Space Station (ISS)?
- 3. On what should the next heavy-lift launch vehicle be based?
- 4. How should crews be carried to low-Earth orbit?
- 5. What is the most practicable strategy for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit?
The Committee considers the framing and answering of these questions individually, and in a consistent way, to be at least as important as their combinations in the integrated options for a human spaceflight program.
They then review the Current Program in Section 1:
- The Space Shuttle
- The International Space Station
- The Constellation Program
Following this review, Section 2 is devoted to the capability of launch to Low Earth Orbit and exploration beyond LEO. The Heavy Lift requirements and capabilities of the various programs available are summarized in this chart from the report:
The Summary then reviews the crew to low Earth orbit possibilities. The conclusion, although the Commission has explicitly stated they will only present options, is that crew access to LEO is best served by commercial launch services provided by the private sector.
Section 2 concludes with considerations about lowering costs of space exploration. The following quotes are indicative of their thinking:
The Committee concludes that an architecture for exploration employing a similar policy
of guaranteed contracts has the potential to stimulate a vigorous and competitive commercial space
The Committee strongly believes it is time for NASA to reassume its crucial role of
developing new technologies for space. Today, the alternatives available for exploration systems
are severely limited because of the lack of a strategic investment in technology development in past
decades. NASA now has an opportunity to develop a technology roadmap that is aligned with an
exploration mission that will last for decades. If appropriately funded, a technology development
program would re-engage the minds at American universities, in industry and within NASA. The
investments should be designed to increase the capabilities and reduce the costs of future
exploration. This will benefit human and robotic exploration, the commercial space community,
and other U.S. government users.
Section 3 presents the options for Future Destinations for Exploration. There are three:
- Mars first, with a Mars landing, perhaps after a brief test of equipment and procedures on
- Moon first, with lunar surface exploration focused on developing the capability to
- Flexible path to inner solar system locations, such as lunar orbit, Lagrange points, near-
Earth objects and the moons of Mars, followed by exploration of the lunar surface and/or
Section 4 brings the previous sections together in an Integrated Program Options chart:
Section 5 discusses Organizational and Programmatic Issues. Two critical elements are:
- NASA should be given the maximum flexibility possible under the law to establish and
manage its systems.
- Finally, significant space achievements require continuity of support over many years.
Section 6 presents a summary of key findings
As noted at the outset, there is nothing appreciably new in this Summary Report. The interesting and controversial information is buried in the internal documents and analyses. We await those choice morsels.