Just one week until the maiden launch of NASA's Ares I-X

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This is exciting - we finally have the first images of the Ares I-X on the launching pad, a vehicle much taller and more slender than the Shuttle. This launch is actually being given so much importance that the next launching of the Shuttle has been delayed as a result. The Ares I-X is pretty much the same height as the Ares I will be, so this image will suffice to show its height:

That's 94 metres compared to 54 for the Shuttle, but at the same time will be much lighter - the Saturn V weighs in at 3 million kg, the Shuttle is 2 million, and Ares I will be only about 900,000 kg, so less than half that of the Shuttle. This is why it has been said to be basically a slimmed down version of Apollo.

In other news, some are saying that the new direction given to NASA in the near future may be a focus on travel to near-Earth objects (asteroids) and perhaps a Mars flyby. The former is a good idea (just a few weeks, and lots of science can be done on the surface); the latter isn't (one year+ in space for the sake of a flyby of a planet we already know a great deal about). As written before, I was originally a supporter of the idea of going to near-Earth objects first but the discovery of water on the Moon has cemented me towards that instead...but if the decision is made to go to a near-Earth asteroid first then that will certainly be exciting too. Don't forget that the discovery of water on the Moon also implies a process that could take place on asteroids as well so perhaps we would find out that water on the surface of such objects is actually quite common.

But this is still speculation until we see the final report. In the meantime, here's a video on the Ares I-X being taken to the launching pad.


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