NASA is being pressured into – and is apparently considering – turning the first all-up SLS test flight, unmanned in current plans, into not just a manned mission but one around the moon.
What could possibly go wrong?
The Apollo programme put men on board only after six comprehensive test flights, four with Saturn IBs and two all-up Saturn V stacks, and ten component test flights before that using Saturn I. Wernher von Braun didn’t even want to do the first all-up test of a Saturn V stack when they did, preferring to proceed even more methodically and carefully. There were many problems and many fixes after each of those flights, some of which were detailed in the excellent six-part “Moon Machines” series, the Saturn episode of which is below.
I often complain that we haven’t done anything of real substance in manned space travel since Apollo 17 returned in December 1972, not once leaving low Earth orbit in forty-five years, but this two-pronged plan to knowingly, purposefully, needlessly put lives at extreme risk is not what I want to see. If carried through, neither of these is likely to end well. I won’t say I told you so; I will mourn.
It may be oversimplifying and slightly facetious to say this, but there is no one left at NASA who remembers how to get to the moon.
All six episodes of “Moon Machines” are in this playlist.