I'm hoping for a circumlunar flight earlier. What I try to keep telling snowjourner is that it isn't just about costs. Curiosity at over two billion cost more than a smaller Discovery class mission atop a block I sent to Europa--and cost more than an LV many times its size.
Some DoD missions atop a Titan IV rivaled a Saturn moon shot with
its payload. You could have had a lot of small, Delta II launched MER type rovers for one Curiosity--but they didn't do that because of the greater capability. At the top level, size is almost irrelevant. To go beyond LEO it will cost billions. So the first GS mission isn't 750 mil-to-1.2 billion--but 7-8 billion. It's rather like what Sea Dragon inventor Bob Truax said--often an upper stage can cost as much if not more than the simpler LV under it that doesn't need as much weight shaved off.
Something that struck me. I think that the folks behind Golden Spike were really shocked when they were not embraced.
I think the idea among those who wanted an excuse to launch a lot of standard LVs was to slime SLS advocates, certain NASA centers (MSFC as being 'old hat" as opposed to understanding physics for instance) with the idea being that the same folks they brainwash into being HLLV haters would fawn over the alternatives (i.e. their own products.)
Instead, they got (almost) the same level of hostility when those concepts were at last presented.
Could it be that they did their job too
I think the well has been poisoned to the point that space professionals--due to all the sniping back and forth--have lost the respect of the public.
Now it is true that the best way to get your own project done is to trash the other guys'--but in the rarified air that is real-space where you hear the same names cropping up, it doesn't take much to get the average Joe to throw up his hands and walk away.
One of the comments from around the web--and this from someone who isn't much of a SLS fan:
As for SLS, I don't think it has that much of a future, no matter what NASA does. But NASA should still persevere and build Block IA (while quietly shelving everything beyond that), because it may well be the only game in town. I no longer really believe in the commercial alternatives, TBH. SpaceX has already lost a lot of its glitter and seems to me to be going downhill fast (look at the delays and customers jumping ship).
I don't know about that, but...
Evolving SLS, even under cost-plus, is nowhere near as expensive as the Saturn V was back in the day. We're no longer dealing with bleeding edge tech in many ways. What's happened since Apollo is that NASA has been steadily starved for funds and proportionally takes up less and less of the federal budget.
Like it or not, NASA is the only game in town. And since NASA's HSF is now only Orion and Orion needs SLS, we have to either support it or support NASA abandoning HSF alltogether. Which is still an option, since the UNmanned part of NASA is doing fine, and outperforming all other unmanned space exploration programs on this planet COMBINED.
And that's the danger.
Personally I also think that if Man returns to the moon, it will be with SLS...or not at all. The in-fighting alone will do everything in. This is why the dual mode of allowing Ares I to die and ceding LEO to Musk, with NASA going to BEO only is a reasonable enough compromise in this political environment.
Public/private partnerships have worked before, and will work again--if only people will allow for them to have a chance to do so.