Understanding the Augustine Report

The Final Report of the Augustine Committee, a.k.a. Review of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, is a lot like Big Foot–many people claim to have seen it but few are capable of describing it when asked. At the risk of Chris Buckley striking out our metaphors, the Augustine Committee’s Final Report bears much resemblance to supernatural phenomena in the way it has been accepted by those few who have read, even if just some of, it in that some see contradictions while others see logic. Yet, the 156 page Augustine Committee Final Report plays a super-sized role in the current debate over the future of NASA and our nation’s human space flight program. The Obama Administration and NewSpace movement have said the Final Report termed Project Constellation unaffordable and unsustainable while Constellation’s supporters say the Final Report intones no such claims. So, whose view is correct? Both? None?

You be the judge.

Knowing that very few of us have the time to sit-down and read the Augustine Committee’s Final Report from front to back, we have decided to bring the Final Report to you. Each day we will post bite-sized amounts, a page or a few, of the Final Report along with our interpretation. Then you can decide for yourself what the Augustine Committee’s Final Report means to you. We are doing this because an informed America is a smarter America. At the end of the day, the current decision to end our nation’s human space flight program is about ending your, The People’s, human space flight program, one paid for by tax-payers over the last 50 years. It is our hope that by going through the Final Report together, along with your comments, that all of us will finish it with at least an understanding of its content, reach some common ground on the how’s and why’s the Committee reached its conclusions, and what are those conclusions.

We will go through Chapters 1 Introduction and Chapter 2 U.S. Human Spaceflight Historical Review quickly each in a day. Beginning with Chapter 3 Goals and Future Destinations for Exploration, our pace will slow in order to allow for a thorough treatment.

Those who wish to have their own copy of the Augustine Committee’s Final Report can download a copy by clicking on this link.

Today’s edition will be the Final Report’s Chapter 1 Introduction, which begins on page 19.

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AmericaSpace Team Notes:

The Augustine Committee was directed by the White House Science Advisor John Holdren to review NASA’s current human space flight program and offer alternatives but not plot a specific future course for human space exploration.

The Committee notes that America currently is the leader in human space flight.

Since the Apollo program, no astronaut has traveled farther than 386 miles from the Earth’s surface.
70% of Americans were born after Apollo 11.

Today, our nation faces decisions about the future of human space flight:

    Will we ever go beyond orbiting earth to chart our solar system?
    How do we ensure the greatest benefit to the nation?
    Can we explore with humans safely?
    Does the nation have the will to put forward the resources needed to explore?

While a great deal has been learned in building reliable human spacecraft, this is an area that demands continued attention.

The Committee did not entertain concepts falling short in human safety.

How to explore in a way that delivers the biggest bang for the buck starts with goals. Goals -> Destinations.

The ultimate goal of human space exploration is to explore the solar system.

The primary issue formulating a human space flight plan is affordability.

Anyone thinking NASA gets too much money needs to look at Figures 1-4, 1-5, and 1-6.

Committee rhetorically asks several questions as a way to form the answer to how our nation’s space program should look.

The Committee feels that Mars is the most interesting place in the inner solar system. Of course, that was before hundreds of tons of ice was found on the Moon.

The Committee will present 5 options, 1 with Constellation and the other 4 from 3,000 potential options based on the set of parameters considered, so that a cost spectrum can be built.

The cost difference between operating in low-earth orbit and exploring beyond-earth are sizable.

Figure 1-9 is interesting. NASA’s human exploration program is viewed as somewhat to very important by 27% – 50% of Americans respectively. NASA’s space exploration program is viewed as somewhat to very relevant by 40% and 18% respectively of Americans and their family and friends.

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