Lockheed won the Orion contract, and most of the reaction is pretty negative.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- NASA on Thursday gave a multibillion dollar contract to build a manned lunar spaceship to Lockheed Martin Corp., the aerospace leader that usually builds unmanned rockets.

The last time NASA awarded a manned spaceship contract to Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland, was in 1996 for a spaceplane that was supposed to replace the space shuttle. NASA spent $912 million and the ship, called X-33, never got built because of technical problems.

The article continues in that vein for quite a while, and Rand Simberg notes that the announcement may be particularly grating for people who worked on previous space programs, again due to the X-33 fiasco.

On further reflection, I should add that this is a bitter pill for Boeing (not legacy Boeing people, but the former McDonnell-Douglas and Rockwell folks), because they remember the X-33 program, when Lockmart conned NASA, and pissed away a billion dollars of taxpayer money, while devastating prospects for reusable vehicles for years (something from which the agency hasn't recovered, given its current launcher development choices). I'm sure that a lot of them are thinking that this just happened again. The difference, of course, is that this isn't a technology development program, but I can understand the bitterness, if it exists.

T.L. James at MarsBlog works for Lockmart and sees the contract win from a different perspective.

I'm not sure if this is his intention, but taken with the first paragraph, he seems to suggest that LM is the wrong choice for Orion and NG-Boeing is the right choice, because LM has no manned space experience while NG and Boeing have all the past heritage. Again, given how long it's been since those manned spacecraft programs occurred, is that heritage experience really relevant? If LM decided to re-enter the commercial passenger jetliner business, would the L-1011 experience from thirty-odd years ago be relevant today?

All-in-all, as a space enthusiast myself, I tend to sympathize with the opinion expressed by commenter Edward Wright where he writes:

Okay. So, what are the positive aspects of a program that will result in astronaut layoffs, higher-cost space transportation, fewer manned spaceflights, and higher taxes?

I can see why this anouncement is good news for Lockheed employees, but what are the rest of us supposed to cheer for?

The same could be said no matter who won the contract... hopefully the future of spaceflight will be private and commercial, rather than government-funded.



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