One of our favorite sister blogs asked some pertinent ORION/ARES design questions of NASA recently and posted the answers today. When asked if contractors or civil servants were working on CEV designs with reduced crew sizes, the Emperor's minions reported a firm "no" to the questions. Of course, that can be parsed in several ways to allow the respondent to maintain plausible deniability. Who in the chain of command actually has asked for the analysis is not any clearer today that it was before the question was asked. We just know the direction maybe didn't originate on E street. But the small contractor team working the issue would certainly respond otherwise if they had been asked.
Unfortunately, the requisite follow-up questions were not asked. What is the current weight situation on ARES/ORION? What is on the mass equipment list, for real, and what is still lurking off on the side on the risk list? How many requirements are still in the parking lot? And just how much mass is going to go into solving the ARES vibration attenuation problem so that the astronaut's chest cavities and bladders remain in one piece after the ride to orbit?