The Artemis Fallacy

Via Universe Today, check out this scathing but excellent critique of NASA’s costly and obsolete Space Launch System (SLS), the centerpiece of today’s scheduled Artemis I mission (emphasis added by me): “The SLS system has provided plenty of jobs in some critical districts for certain influential members of Congress, and if the project happens to run a bit over budget to support those jobs, so be it. But to anyone who doesn’t directly benefit from the largesse sloshing around these rocketry contracts, it simply looks like the government is spending billions of dollars on a rocket that is already obsolete before it ever even leaves the ground. That is because the SLS has a huge weakness that hikes its single launch cost up into the billions – it is expendable. After launch, the main stage is lost to the ocean, never to be recovered. That is a stark contrast to another well-known launch system that happens to be run by a much more agile firm without a cost-plus contract. Starship has a potential payload capacity almost 30% larger than SLS’s – and it’s reusable, potentially bringing the cost per kilogram launched down to $10.”

prior probability

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins once described the sunk cost fallacy as the “Concorde fallacy” (see below). In plain English, this fallacy can be summed up as follows: “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you have already spent a lot of time and money making it.” By way of example, check out this report by Michael Sheetz about NASA’s costly Artemis lunar mission. Among other things, NASA’s Inspector General Paul Martin is quoted as saying: “We found that the first four Artemis missions will each cost $4.1 billion per launch, a price tag that strikes us as unsustainable.” Perhaps we should now call it the Artemis fallacy.

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About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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1 Response to The Artemis Fallacy

  1. Pingback: Review of “We Are Going to the Moon” | prior probability

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