Space Frontier Foundation Mocks Time's NASA Pick
The Space Frontier Foundation mockingly congratulated NASA Nov. 16 for its "propaganda triumph" in convincing Time magazine to name the Ares I rocket as the best invention of the year. The Ares rocket, part of NASA's Constellation program, is intended to become NASA's primary launch vehicle, replacing the aging space shuttle fleet.
NASA launched what it called a prototype of the Ares I rocket Oct. 28 with the flight lasting only two minutes, the time it took for the first-stage, solid-fuel booster to burn out.
Time's Nov. 12 issue called the test launch, "The best and smartest and coolest thing built in 2009 - a machine that can launch human beings to cosmic destinations we'd never considered before - is the fruit of a very old family tree, one with branches grand, historic and even wicked."
But the SFF claims there is no completed Ares I rocket.
"While many reporters know that Ares I is far behind schedule and likely to be canceled as an unnecessary and expensive distraction from real exploration missions, apparently Time magazine fell for this publicity hoax. There was no boy in the balloon and there most definitely was no Ares rocket launched in Florida last month," the SFF's Rick Tumlinson said in a statement. "If anyone at Time had bothered to go beyond the NASA and contractor flacks, they would have found out what most people in the space community already knew. This was a marketing ploy designed to save a program threatened with imminent cancellation."
According to the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee appointed by President Obama to review the future plans for NASA, multiple questions surround the Ares program. "I think there is an argument that it was a sensible program to begin with," former Lockheed Martin executive and head of the review committee Norman Augustine said at a National Press Club event the day before the Ares test launch. "There is a real question whether it's a sensible program today."
The key question surrounding NASA's plans, the panel said, is money or, more specifically, the lack of it. NASA has already spent almost $6.9 billion on a plan centered on the Ares launch rocket to be back on the moon by 2020 to establish a lunar outpost for future space expeditions. NASA continues to spend $300 million a month on the program.
In a Nov. 9 article for the Huffington Post, Apollo moonwalker Buzz Aldrin also questioned the Ares test launch.
"The rocket is said to have performed as planned, and ushered in the era of the Ares rockets to replace the space shuttle next year. Only it won't. In fact, the much-hyped Ares 1-X was much ado about nothing," Aldrin wrote. "Yes, the rocket that thundered aloft from NASA's launch pad 39B sure looked like an Ares 1. But that's where the resemblance stops."
Aldrin said NASA bought the solid-stage booster from the space shuttle program since the five-segment booster being designed for the Ares rocket wasn't ready.
"So they put a fake can on top of the four-segmented motor to look like the real thing. Since the real Ares' upper stage rocket engine, called the J-2X wasn't ready either, they mounted a fake upper stage. No Orion capsule was ready, so - you guessed it - they mounted a fake capsule with a real-looking but fake escape rocket that wouldn't have worked if the booster had failed," Aldrin wrote.