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Launching the Crew

We've been a big fan of launching the cargo and people separately ever since all those problems getting STS-1 off the ground. The issues associated with these two types of flight are quite different. People don't weigh much; maybe 500 pounds each if they're fully equipped for EVA. We could put our crew plus their LEO spacecraft into orbit on a Delta II or a little Arianne.

The only example in the U.S. space program where the heavy machinery and the people were launched separately was Skylab. Even the US Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory was planned to launch the crew together with their disposable space station.

Man-rating a rocket, or any piece of space hardware, consists of reviewing the system for hazards to human beings, and sometimes fixing things that don't pass the review. The expensive part of man-rating a rocket could be more the changes to the launch site than to the rocket itself. There's really no reason why a Titan IV could not be man-rated; however, that's more launcher than we'd need to get our crew to orbit.

We don't have a good scenario for getting our crew to Earth orbit right now. It was easy to work out the initial reference mission; we just assumed they'd fly up with the cargo on the second Shuttle flight. However, the Shuttle will probably not be our choice of launcher early in the next century: it's very pricey and the existing Shuttle fleet (except Columbia, which will be the only one left) will have a full plate supporting the research on the International Space Station, so even if space is available in the manifest we probably would not want to pay the cost.

At $30 million a passenger, Soyuz wouldn't be nearly as much drain on our theoretical budget; but it's a tiny little spaceship. We would like to avoid having to train our moon crew for atmospheric flight, which means at least one veteran cosmonaut would displace one of the crew on the way up and down.

Developing an atmospheric spacecraft (that is, a reentry vehicle) would increase our costs by an enormous factor, so for now we can hope that at least one of the several promising manned spacecraft ideas will come to fruition in time with our project. Maybe it'll be a manned orbital version of the X-33 with McDonnell Douglas and Boeing written all over it, or maybe it'll be a Black Horse from Tom Kessler. Who knows? Maybe an entrepreneur in Brazil will decide to jump into the market.

Whoever it is, if they build it so that we can afford it, they'll have a customer.

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