The roadmap is pretty grim. NASA's future is defined as if it is to serve as a trucking company for bold "explorers" to take them where no man has ever gone before. What a waste of money and manpower! Without real advances in propulsion, humans are never going to go very far outside Earth's orbit.
Apparently, no real physicists have a hand in defining NASA's goals, only bureaucrats whose understanding of space exporation is limited to Star Trek and Buck Rogers. What a pity.
Not exactly optimistic. NASA needs to get off the cowboy mode and focus more on the science mode. There is no need to put more people into space just for the sake of saying 'look what we did'.
I know there is often a strong reaction to this -[due to not understanding the possibilites] but the most important thing NASA needs to do is completely forget manned space exploration beyond the Earth/Moon system- it is just idiocy to spend billions/decades engineering a mobile environment for fragile wet bags of protein- you've got to think about sending the most efficiently adapted tools to explore/colonize space- that means robots and bioengineered space-adapted bodies-
for many cultural and practical reasons it is still important for humans to go into space- however instead of trying to take a portable environment to sustain your delicate and inefficient body- you should move into a new space-adapted or robotic body- leave the monkey suit on Earth were it belongs!
the technology for remote intelligent robotics is within reach and ready by the time that a Mars or any other inner-solar system mission could be planned/built- and shortly thereafter- before the middle of the century- methods of space-adpating and reengineering the human body- as well as ways of incorporating the functions of the human brain into a non-biological computing substrate to allow either a remote link or full embodiment in a robotic body- should be available-
Genuine Space Station
Concerning the Earth/Moon system, it seems that a genuine space station is needed. I think the ISS is limited in what it can do. Perhaps a large ring, slowly rotating to create artificial gravity, with docking ports, would be more liveable and practical.
Like the ISS, the new station would have to be constructed in stages. It would certainly cost more and take a long time to finish, but commercial activity on the Moon would more than offset the cost.
New ways to reach the station from the Earth are needed too. I grieved the day when NASA canceled its breakthrough propulsion program.
While the BPPP [Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project] and RPRP [Revolutionary Propulsion Research Project] have been shelved, the Advanced Space Transportation Program [ASTP] is still alive and well. See
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