Spencer: Abandon Ares I in Favor of Something That Will Work

NASA's Ares I rocket lifts off in this artist's conception. (Credit: NASA)
NASA's Ares I rocket lifts off in this artist's conception. (Credit: NASA)

Over at NewScientist, aerospace engineer Henry Spencer opions that NASA should abandon its Ares I plan in favor of existing expendable boosters like the Atlas and Delta:

As I wrote last summer, it’s been clear almost from the start that Ares I was a very marginal, optimistic design, just barely adequate if everything went right. But there are always problems, and Ares I had no margin for problems.

As one underlying assumption after another has turned out to be wrong, requiring design change after design change, NASA has nevertheless clung to the same basic approach, unwilling to admit its mistake and hoping that sheer persistence would see the project through. Perhaps it could, but the price for such bullheadedness can be very high, and the budget projections are now starting to reflect that – the Sentinel says that its estimated costs through 2015 have swelled from $28 billion in 2006 to $44 billion today.

Some of us thought from the start that this was blatant empire-building. At first glance, the US’s existing big rockets – Atlas V and Delta IV – seemed quite adequate for launching people and supplies into Earth orbit. (They wouldn’t suffice for launching to the moon and beyond, but then, Ares I couldn’t do that either – that job was assigned to its big brother, Ares V.)

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