Originally the plan was to replace it with two
* crew launched in an Orion capsule on an Ares I
* cargo (heavy lift) launched on an Ares V
Obama and the NASA administrator want to cancel Ares I, but Congress
might block that.
Ares I is an incredibly stupid design, but if we cancel it we will have
no capability of launching manned missions at all.
I've seen this from at least 3 different sides: science, contractor, and
From a science perspective, everything being done in
the 60's couldn't
have been done without the government. Lots of science
being done today
can't be done without the government. But the scientists don't need
any rockets more advanced than what we were doing in the 60's and 70's.
They would appreciate simplificiation. But when your instrument is a one
of a kind you would kind of prefer that it not blow up on the pad so there
is conservatism at least at the expensive end of the project scale. At the
low end of the project scale there are plenty of projects who wuold be glad
to build five instruments (because they're cheap) with the hope that at
least one makes it into space.
From a government perspective, everything has to be
done in the "Ten Year
Plan" style because there's never enough money
to get it done in one year.
But stretching it out over ten years in fact makes it more expensive.
Things get real expensive for the government, especially
a balkanized 40+ year old agency like NASA. Others might say that in a
spiteful tone, but I honestly say it in sympathy because I know how
people struggle to get good simple cheap science done in an agency that
at many levels is thinking only about the ten-year zillion dollar programs.
From the contractor perspective, it's hard to
compete against the Russians.
You have to do more or better than the Russians, not
the same, to compete.
But more or better is always more expensive and longer to do... and it's
often more than is actually needed too! The big ones try to be clever
by buying the cheap startups but I wonder if the cheap startup simply gets
stifled in the beauracracy.