All things went well with Orion's test flight on Friday after it splashed down into the Pacific Ocean. The Orion is designed to carry more for longer, as it is planned to be used for travel to Mars. This is a giant leap from the moon as it takes 6 months of travel to get there.
With the worlds most famous awaiting the first commercial space flight, the rest of the population have finally received some fresh news on the future of space travel. I was sad at the loss of the shuttle program and most of the funding for future space exploration, at least in my lifetime. The Orion test flight puts space travel back in the news again and I hope that ignites some new interest for the upcoming, younger generations.
Yes, I think that the Orion test flight has ushered in a new era of space exploration because I have been following this mars one mission for a while that they are using this pod for and I have been very intruiged since the beginning. I think that it is a very positive thing for space.
The Orion test flight had space enthusiasts excited about the advancement of finding out more about space, but it is hardly a new era of space exploration. The test flight was a big advancement, but as people have watched the NASA scientists work it again looks like they are trying hard to create publicity for their mini efforts. NASA's competition actually is progressing faster and making more strides in space exploration.
By the time we landed on the moon, it cost U.S. taxpayers $24 Billion, that's with a "B", for what, about 50 lbs of rocks? Sure, we developed some things for the mission, i.e. memory foam, but we pay even more to use it.
Probably because it uses so much stuff that was already developed, they estimate the cost to be between $19-22 billion by 2017 for the first flights. Seeing that the first manned trips to Mars are scheduled for the 2030's this cost will just keep adding up.
Practical reasons. What is the point of sending a crew to do something a robot could do. A robot would not need supplies, i.e. food, water, air so less cargo would need to be sent. This means that either more scientific experiments could be sent or less energy would be needed to power the craft. A robot could also withstand more severe condition such as no gravity, radiation, extreme temperatures, G-forces, etc, and they also would not suffer the mental stress of being in a tinny space for a long period of time (estimated about 16 months). Clearly we would be much better off sending more robots as we have done in the past.
Safety: Not just to the astronauts but to people on earth as well. Remember, Orion will be propelled by a series of nuclear explosions. It is risky enough to have nuclear weapons under ground and water, how safe is it to have them in the air above our heads? History of NASA shows that mishaps happen during launch and re-entry, think of that combined with tons of nuclear bombs attached.
It is plain to me that the risks, and cost outweigh any benefit we may get. I say "Scrap the program."