Both Ars Technica and the Wall Street Journal are reporting that, at the behest of Donald Trump’s tech advisor Peter Thiel, Team Donald Trump is beefing up the NASA transition or landing team with advocates of commercial Space. The move is seen as balancing the presence of such people as Christopher Shank and Doug Cooke who represent the old space agency way of doing things. Ars Technica suggests that a fight is developing over the future direction of NASA, whether we will see a revival of the Constellation program or whether the space agency will use a more commercial centric approach to space exploration.

Two of the new proposed team members are notable.

Alan Stern, while involved in space entrepreneurial activities, is most famous as the principal investigator of the New Horizon mission that flew by Pluto in 2015, revealing the former ninth planet of the solar system to be a strange new world with nitrogen ice glaciers and compacted water ice mountains.

Charles Miller authored a study while at NASA suggesting that a heavy lift rocket such as the Space Launch System would be unnecessary.

He proposed a program in which multiple launches of the Falcon Heavy or the Delta IV Heavy would be used to deploy fuel in a depot for missions back to the moon or to an Earth-approaching asteroid. The flaw of the plan resided in the fact that reasonable launch rates of these two rockets would limit the number of missions done in this way to three or four a decade.

Miller founded a think tank, NextGen Space, that conducted a second study suggesting that a return to the moon could be done commercially with $10 billion spent to get the first astronaut boots on the lunar surface and $80 billion in all to establish a base.

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The study, commissioned by NASA and vetted by a team of outside experts including former space agency employees, is highly regarded and proves that the idea of a lunar return is not so “zany,” to use a term by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, after all.

The question arises, what is to come from the work of what may be thought of as a “team of rivals” evaluating the current state of NASA and making recommendations as to its future?

Paul Spudis, who writes frequently about space policy, suggests a merging of the NASA-centric and the commercial space approaches. Metal is already being bent on the Orion spacecraft and the heavy lift Space Launch System. But a lunar lander could be acquired commercially. Eventually, the SLS could be made more cost effective or replaced with commercial heavy lifters such as the planned Blue Origin New Armstrong.

The arrangement may not completely satisfy everyone, but such may be the art of the space deal.

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