- A mostly-reusable Earth-surface-to-LEO lifter with a trivial launch cost (compared to the Saturn, STS, or Ares) and a high cargo capacity; i.e. an orbital version of SpaceShipOne with a bigger payload bay.
- A system of modules for easily and robustly assembling space structures and vehicles (i.e. space stations and high-capacity, long-duration LEO-to-LMO transit vehicles). This is where my research could come in.
- An Earth-orbit assembly platform/rendezvous station, made out of the modular system specified in (2). Similar platform modules to be dropped off in LMO.
- High-cargo-capacity LMO-to-surface descent vehicles. Mars surface-to-LMO vehicles with comparable efficiency to the Earth surface-to-LEO vehicles specified in (1).
Take-away message: cut this CEV crap, and don’t fall back to “faster, better, cheaper.” Sink a good amount of resources into next-gen space technology R&D, and after the initial investment we’ll be able to do most anything for little additional cost. Note that if we have (1)-(4) above, we could just as easily perform manned exploration of the outer solar system as the inner. We need real vision to do this. And we must do it, because we will develop the most complete understanding of the Universe through direct experience of it and we must expand out into the Solar System, at least, to ensure our survival in the event of the worst contingencies.