Jason Crusan of NASA on Crewed EM-1
Jeff Foust, of SpaceNews:
That study is in progress and is expected to be completed by late March or early April. “We’re going back and reevaluating the trades of why we decided what we did” regarding not flying a crew on EM-1, said Jason Crusan, director of advanced exploration systems at NASA Headquarters, during a Feb. 23 panel on human spaceflight held by the Royal Aeronautical Society at the British Embassy here. “There’s many reason why we decided to do that, a lot of the related to risk posture, and a lot of them related to budget realities.”
“If you put crew on the first mission, you’re not going to go to distant retrograde orbit and push the limits of the vehicle on the very first flight,” he said. “So do you actually make less progress, or more progress? That’s the trade we have to go through.”
Guess that answers a few questions about what the flight plan would be for a crewed EM-1. Interestingly, he didn’t rule out a near-free return trajectory, which is seeming more likely for the currently-planned EM-2.
The study, Crusan said, would also look at the effects putting a crew on EM-1 would have on later missions, including plans to fly co-manifested payloads on EM-2 using additional capacity on the upgraded version of the SLS that will fly starting on EM-2. Accelerating the first crewed flight, he cautioned, may not avoid the gap that currently exists between EM-1 and EM-2 because of “uncompressible” elements of infrastructure that need to be developed.
As I said in the latest episode of the podcast, “Then what?” is the most important question this study has to answer. Putting crew on EM-1 and leaving the entire roadmap after that unchanged doesn’t accomplish anything more than a stunt.