Wednesday, July 05, 2006

 

Reclaiming the new frontier

NASA, Ares is the Greek god associated with Mars, and the "I and V" designations pay homage to the Apollo-era Saturn I and Saturn V rockets. The crew exploration vehicle, which will succeed the space shuttle as NASA's spacecraft for human space exploration, will be named at a later date.

I confess some serious disappointment that the new launch vehicles for NASA, the US are a throwback to the days of Apollo. The big difference is a heavy reliance on solid, rather than liquid fueled rocket stages. The reason is safety, solids are inherently safer, with almost no risk of explosion. Heat shields are greatly advanced, and materials science advances mean far less weight, more bang for the buck. The shuttle was a grand achievement, but it's time is nearly up, and we seem to be going back to proven, safe technology. The other big reason is cost, space flight will never be cheap, but with the numbers of missions needed, we have to think cost effective, if we are ever going to go to Mars.

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