I was just reading an article about the Orion vehicle which Nasa is planning to use for the return to the Moon. The name is unfortunately poorly chosen, the name Orion has already been used, for a nuclear powered rocket.

Anyway, back to the new Orion, or the CEV, the Crewed Exploration Vehicle. I think they spelled it wrong. It should have been "Crude Exploration Vehicle". Its a warmed over Apollo. Apollo was breathtaking, in 1965 when it was designed. We can do, and have done, better. For example: the Space Shuttle.

The Space Shuttle is a prototype. It was supposed to have been replaced in 1998 or so, the individual space frames were supposed to have a 25 year life. It is a serious vehicle: it can take a 15 foot by 60 foot cylinder into space (size of the payload bay), and return with it, it can be reused (more or less, again prototype), it can actually land, with landing gear, on a runway (as opposed to going splash in the ocean (and needing a carrier group to fish it out) like an Apollo, or thud like a CEV or Soyuz). The Space Shuttle actually tried to do space travel like it meant it, instead of a one-offed three-guys-and-a-suitcase-of-rocks like Apollo and now the CEV.

But, now we're throwing away 30 years and returning to a warmed-over Apollo. I am unimpressed. Apollo was a challenge, CEV is a replay, lets do space like we mean it. I have some Nasa quarterly progress reports from 1972 or so (before the Vietnam War killed the funding for the last two Apollo flights). The optimism they contain, they describe nuclear powered tugs taking stuff from low earth orbit to the moon, and beyond, is almost depressing to watch.

The original speech that set the Apollo ball rolling is relevant: "We choose to go...not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to measure and organize the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win." We did Apollo and its capsules 40 years ago. Lets build a serious vehicle, instead of a one-off.