There is a coherent explanation of what is being proposed, but NASA has given it little emphasis and it seems not to have registered with those trying to understand the new strategy. That strategy involves a restart — a five-year period of building the technological foundation for the future. That restart would be followed by another five to seven years of developing new systems based on that foundation, then a series of human missions to various destinations beyond Earth orbit. There is no commitment to a specific destination on a specific schedule; that avoids the narrowing effect that was a characteristic of Apollo. To me this is a quite sensible and easily understandable strategy, if the United States wants to be in the vanguard of 21st century space exploration. But it does not follow the Apollo model of setting a date to arrive at a specific destination that gave the United States unquestioned space leadership. It will be a challenge to maintain focus and technological discipline in implementing a strategy without a “date by” goal, but a capabilities-based approach can pave the way to U.S. leadership in reaching all the interesting destinations between the Earth and Mars. To me, the greatest threat to U.S. space leadership would come from our political system insisting on staying with the Apollo-era approach to the future, not from adopting this new strategy.
Think about what Logsdon is saying here. Apollo had a clear goal and a clear timetable and these are bad things. A vague, unfocused, goalless, directionless technology program is the preferred way to go.
For all of Logsdon's scholarship about Apollo, he seems to be clueless about why it worked and why something like he proposes cannot work. Even he suggests it will be a "a challenge to maintain focus and technological discipline" to do what he is suggesting.
Let me substitute the word "impossible" for the word "challenging." Projects that do not have goals or deadlines tend to go nowhere very slowly.
The problem with Apollo was not the fact that it had a goal or a deadline, but that the goal was rather limited. "To land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth in this decade--" When NASA accomplished that goal, there was no consensus as to what to do next.
I posit a counterfactual argument. What if JFK had said instead, "---to establish a settlement on the Moon and to use that settlement as a base to expand human civilization across the Solar System and ultimately the stars."
That would have resulted in a far different space program that would not have become truncated but would have been open ended. The trick, therefore, is not to, as Logsdon suggests, not have goals or deadlines, but rather to set the goal so that it is not limiting and therefore accomplishes more than Apollo ever dreamed of.
Logsdon has this complaint:
It is really too bad that the announcement, and since then the defense, of a fundamental paradigm shift in the way the United States carries out human space exploration, and human spaceflight overall, have been so poorly articulated. The White House and NASA dug a rather deep hole in mismanaging the rollout of the new strategy, and the president really did not improve matters much by announcing a quickly conceived resuscitation of Orion, blowing off the Moon as a valuable destination, and setting an ambiguous target for a heavy-lift vehicle. NASA seems unable to provide clear or convincing answers to the congressional critics of the new strategy, and those of us who support it are having difficulty in getting our views heard.
Of course if ones plan is vague, unfocused, and flawed, ones explanation of it is likely to also be vague, unfocused, and flawed.