Reaching for the stars, maybe.
With last Wednesday's first test flight of the Ares I-X rocket, the nation's next-generation launch vehicle for human space exploration, NASA took a page from the past in order to make a leap to the future. After a generation of use, the space shuttle system is due to be phased out in 2010, giving way to Project Constellation, which envisions returning to the moon and, in time, sending humans to Mars.
NASA plans to get there with a series of rockets, the Ares I for crew and the Ares V for materials, that hearken back to the tall, powerful Saturn V rockets that launched the Apollo astronauts on their missions during the 1960s. The Ares design is thought to be safer and more cost-effective than the shuttle design, and capable of putting more payload into Earth orbit with less fuel.
Wednesday's flight, which lasted only about six minutes, was judged a success from the scientific and technical points of view. Whether it proves to be the opening move in humankind's next great reach for the stars, or just a false start that falls victim to politics and budget squabbles, remains to be seen.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Nov 3, 2009|
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