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Why to-day's NASA is so slow?
All industries (cars, computers, etc.) have had an evolution in products' design from early (slow) days to current (fast) computer aided projects and productions. Early days of cars' industry was (obviously) slow because all parts was invented from zero! But now, thanks to 100 years of experience, design and production and many new technologies, a cars' company is able to design, project, test and manufacture a new model in a few years... but other products (like a new computer) need only a few months to born!
In last 100 years, the aerospace industry have had a similar (slow) evolution in its early days (to develop all parts and build its experience) but now it's very fast in design and build a new airplane (from scratch to commercial flights with 200+ passengers!) or a satellite, from idea and design to real launch in orbit.
Space industry has only 50 years of experience, but have received great quantities of money (especially in America and Russia) and the best engineers and scientist have worked hard to develop all the "parts" (engines, rockets, capsules, space suits, pressurized modules, shuttles, etc.) for the space missions we've seen in XX century (moon, shuttle, etc.) so, no one need to "reinvent the wheel" to build a new rocket!
NASA was the world's leader in space research and have made some incredible missions (like the Apollo) vehicles (like the Space Shuttles) and space assembly (like the ISS) in a few years... around half dozen years each to come "from zero to Moon" or "from zero to Shuttle" or "from zero to Space Station"!
But now NASA is very slow... slow to decide, slow to design, slow in research and development, very slow to solve its problem (over two years and half to "solve" the Shuttles' main tank foam problem... without solve it) and also the new ESAS plan is incredibly slow... over 13 years (planned but add delays) to come back on the moon... twice the time of its first moon landing, from zero to Armstrong's moon walking!
True... this is NOT a "race" against Soviet Union, like in '60s (despite Russia and China have a different opinion about this new "race"), spacecrafts and space missions are risky, so, they need time to develop and build good vehicles and hardware... true... but, why TWICE the time of successful Apollo missions?
If to-day's space industries and space agencies have the same or BETTER experience and technology of airplanes' and computers' industries, why NASA don't build and launch a new vehicle in HALF TIME, in respect of old vehicles and missions, like Apollo and Shuttle, made with old experience and technology?
My opinion is that ESAS plan is FULL of little and big problems and mistakes, but its BIGGER problem is its incredible SLOWNESS! ...5+ years to test the first CLV with dumb upper stage! ...7+ years for the first manned CEV launch! ...12+ years to test the first HLV rocket! ...13+ years for the first (new) moon landing! ...about TWICE any previous vehicle/rocket/mission made in NASA! ...instead of HALF time!
Now, in the SAME TIME of first moon landing (after build the Apollo, the giant SaturnV, the LEM, etc.) NASA is able to develop, build and launch ONLY a very little rocket with a "dumb" upper stage/CEV!
The "new-SaturnV" (same dimensions, same payload, same purpose) SDHLV will need (about) THREE TIMES the OLD SaturnV to fly despite the OLD SaturnV engines was built FOR it (FROM ZERO) while the "new-Saturn" will use ALREADY AVAILABLE engines (SRB and SSME) that DON'T NEED to be designed and built since, some units, are already stored in NASA buildings of Space Shuttles' spare parts!
12+ years to design and build a ("Shuttle derived"!) "TANK", join it to some ALREADY AVAILABLE SSME engines and SRB boosters, modify the Shuttles launch pad and (FINALLY!) test the "new" rocket!
NASA problems appear much more serious if you consider that for Apollo missions ALL "parts" was made (or INVENTED!) from ZERO (giant engines, giant rockets, a new capsule, new materials, "brand new" technologies, more advanced computers, LED displays, CCD cameras, the new LEM to safely land on the COMPLETELY UNKNOWN surface of an "object" called "moon", new space suits for moon walking, etc.) while, now, NASA has ALL the technologies and the experience to repeat the same missions without any need to "invent" new and unexisting materials and technologies... also, as explained before, some "parts" of ESAS rockets and vehicles are ALREADY AVAILABLE or CAN be EASY developed and built using to-day's aerospace industries' experience and their (INCREDIBLY FAST!) CAD-CAM technologies!!!
Then... why NASA is so slow? ...where is the problem? ...and... how to solve this (giant) NASA problem?
Since I don't work for NASA, I've no idea of the origin of this problem... but (probably) You may have it!
January 7 - 2006