NASA and its Ares rocket program have taken quite a beating in the blogosphere (including here). In the interest of fairness, I thought I would post a couple of links from websites that are defending the space agency and its efforts to get America back to the moon. I don’t necessarily agree with these assessments, but I think they’re an interesting counterpoint to the prevailing wisdom.
Never mind all of the controversy and confusion surrounding NASA’s budget, their new leader and possible delays the shuttle retirement; I have some good news for you! NASA’s engineers working on the Constellation program are actually making some serious progress.
Ares I-X, the code name for the first Ares rocket to be tested, will lift off from Kennedy Space Center early this summer. It should climb to around 25 miles (40.2 km) in a two-minute powered test of the first stage and its recovery system. The test is meant to find out if there are any basic design flaws that need to be fixed before the more complex components are added to the rocket. This just goes to show that no matter how powerful the computers and simulations are these things just have to be tested the old fashion way.
Ares I vs. EELVâ€“Advantage Ares I
Now comes news (â€Cost Comparisonâ€, AvWeek, 5 January 2009, Washington Outlook, p.18) that NASA some time ago asked the Aerospace Corporation to do a study weighting the costs and benefits of abandoning Ares I for one of the EELVâ€™s.
Initially, this Aerospace Corp. study was done using NASA numbers, so one could spend quite a bit of time and electrons blasting such as study as biased. But at the request of Marshall Space Flight Center Director Doug Cook, the United Launch Alliance was invited to participate in the study to assure that the numbers used to analyze the EELV option were the most favorable to the EELV team. I doubt Mr. Cook would have opened the data to ULA unless he felt that Ares I would still shine, which it did in the original Aerospace Corp draft study.
Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has been saying for years that the EELVâ€™s are no substitute for Ares I. The Aerospace Corp. seems to agree. Will that quiet the angry critics of the Ares I in Space blogdom? Unlikely. But what the study will do is keep those in the Obama Administration who feel that the EELV option might be a good one from slowing down Ares I development while a study like that of Aerospace Corp. is completed. Griffin, Cook, et. al. seem to have headed that issue off at the pass.