Saturday, November 11, 2006

Stuck On the Stick


Sunday is the day of American football. The San Francisco 49er's just announced that they wish to leave their home at Candlestick Park. "The Stick," also known as Monster Park, first opened in 1960 when Eisenhower was president. Another "Stick" may be in trouble too.

From Nasawatch: "Sources inside the development of the Ares I launch vehicle (aka Crew Launch Vehicle or "The Stick") have reported that the current design is underpowered to the tune of a metric ton or more. As currently designed, Ares I would not be able to put the present Orion spacecraft design into the orbit NASA desires."

Though this blog has described the current Moon plan, alternatives should also be considered. There is still time to choose the Direct Launcher concept, which requires only one new booster. Spending too much time on Ares I risks running out of money for Ares V and being stuck in low Earth orbit. India's president just announced plans to reach the Moon in August 2025, possibly before China. The US can not afford to lose this race.

Fortunately people still have ingenuity and there are many other plans out there. Some of the private launchers described earlier, like Atlas V, could launch Orion into orbit. The Ares I with its new 5-segment solid rocket booster is a risky design. Who wants to ride atop a giant bottle rocket, anyway?

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