Seth Godin has a new post up, Square One is Underrated. In it, he points out that when you discover that you are on the wrong path, speeding up is not the solution. The solution is to go back to the last point that you had the chance to find the correct path to the destination, even if that’s all the way back to square one.
This is an important point for NASA as well. They started down the path with Constellation, to build huge rockets to go to the Moon in an unsustainable way, much like we did in the 60’s. Apollo on steroids they called it. But costs escalated, making it even more unsustainable, and schedules slipped, yet they insisted on continuing down that path. Even though, if they’d followed Congressional mandates, they had a more sustainable and reliable choice in buying launches to orbit from the commercial sector.
Why is it more reliable? To start with, following the NASA approach of having only one rocket to get to orbit, when (not if) an accident happens with that rocket, you ground the fleet and lose access to space for about two years (Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia all created about a two year stand-down, give or take a bit). With the commercial fleet, there would be up to four different rides into space, on four different launchers. So while one stands down to fix it’s problems, you’ve still got other options.