All good points, Xeven; basically any such proposal is hampered by the fact that - as yet - there is not plan for specifically when America will
return to the moon. All estimates point to the 2015-2020 timeframe, based on a 2014 estimate for Orion's first flight. But I have to disagree with
your assessment that a low-tech lander would save much money.
The reason for this is that what really makes the $$$ add up in the aerospace industry is testing. NASA tests everything - they build it, stress it
until it breaks, figure out why it broke, make it better, etc. Even something as simple as the lunar lander's ladder (actually the LSAM's ladder
now, for Lunar Surface Access Module
) needs to be tested. On Earth a ladder is a ladder is a ladder,
sure, but what happens to that ladder when it has been sitting in a Lunar environment for up to six months (the expected maximum extent of future Moon
missions, at least for the moment)? In that environment the ladder would be exposed to a significant amount of radiation, would experience
temperatures ranging from 40 Kelvins to 396 Kelvins, etc. That's just the ladder, not the rocket engines, the life support systems, or the fuel
tanks - and the fuel tanks WILL be a problem, because NASA wants to go with a LOX/LH2 mix for the fuel/oxidizer, mostly to maximize payload, but
preventing liquid hydrogen boil-off in a lunar environment over a 6 month period is going to be a tough problem to lick.
An additional problem with your plan, aside from development expenses, is simply paying for the rocket. The numbers aren't in yet, but the Ares V,
which WILL be needed to send Orion to the moon (be it with a habitat or a more bare-bones lander), will probably run somewhere in the neighborhood of
$250 Million per launch; the RS-68 engines
on the first stage alone will total $100
Million (for 5); a pair of SRB's will run about $50 Million
(rounded up), to say nothing
about the upper stage, the tankage itself, etc. Another, space-specific board I post at has some members who work at Kennedy Space Center for Shuttle
contractors, and some of them have been making a pretty good argument for ~$500 million for each Ares V launch. Your plan would require two such
launches for each moon mission, one for the Orion capsule and the lander, and another for the Habitat. That would get very expensive very quickly.