Frankly, it all seems a bit boring. Maybe this program will successfully return the US to the Moon by 2020. There are lots of great engineers working in it and they are quite capable of making it a success. However, the price tag is far too high for far too little. I want spaceflight to become practical, useful and broadly available. That's when it gets exciting. NASA will achieve none of these with the Constellation program. They are not even goals the agency recognizes.
This caused this response from Curmudgeons:
The truth of the matter is that both the private and public sectors have their place in the scheme of things. The prospect of private flights to low Earth orbit would be a distant dream if it were not for (a) hefty amounts of funding from NASA under the COTS program and (b) the existence of the International Space Station, as misbegotton and dysfunctional as that project has been, as a core market.
And that belief in the neccessity of government in producing a viable commercial private space industry produced this response from Transterrestrial:
Mark Whittington continues his delusion that private industry cannot get to LEO without NASA money. Elon has been planning to get to orbit all along, and funding the development of vehicles to do so. People would be planning and funding private orbital trips in the absence of ISS. COTS has the potential to accelerate the schedule, but it's not necessary. It will happen with or without it.
Here's their compressed two cents... Clark Lindsey believes that Orion will not make space travel practical and widely available. Mark Whittington of Curmudgeons believes that for space to become practical and widely available it needs both NASA and so-called "alt.spacers." Rand Simberg disagrees with Clark, and Mark saying that all we need is alt spacers, and all that COTS and Orion does is speed the process up to getting practical widely available space travel.
If I've misinterpreted, misread, or generally didn't get it, please shoot me with a Canadian registered long arm rifle... Good luck with that.
Let me be the quintessential annoying Canuck, and disagree with them all.
It's not that NASA's involvement in space exploration is necessary or speeds up anything - - It's that isn't ideal.
Ideally, private, cheap spaceflight would come from private means, that is not controlled by a single monopolistic company. Ideally, there would be many companies each competing.
Mark Whittington would no doubt bring up examples of the East India Trading Company, the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada as examples of how government involvement can help spur the development of private involvement in a new frontier.
However, I live in a country build by private monopolies in partnership with the government. Canada, was built on the Crown giving companies decades old monopolies on land and even on services. It took us years to get rid of phone monopolies all across the country. I can tell you now - none of those ventures were the ideal way of expanding a country.
Still do this day, some provinces have barely more than one TV cable company, we once had a nationalised petrol company, some provinces have liquor companies, and we have one national airline! Prices go up, services flounder. The idea is almost ingrained in the Canadian spyche we can't seem to get it out when it no longer becomes practical or reasonable.
NASA's involvement may lead to practical and widely available spaceflight. COTS was a brilliant idea. But given NASA's track record, doubt is more than in order in terms of ability to achieve success.
That and not to mention more doubt should be heaped on the idea of letting the state be in leage with one or multiple companies in space exploration. It may very well work at creating cheaper viable and widely accessible access to space as Mark Whittington suggests. But it could lead to artificially high prices, ineffeciency and poor service.