(by Joseph Weber, WashingtonTimes.com) – The NASA Ares I-X rocket was launched successfully at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The unmanned rocket is a prototype for one that could return astronauts to the moon. The launch was postponed from Tuesday because of bad weather.

The 327-foot rocket — taller than the Statue of Liberty — roared into the blue Florida sky and then curled slowly back to earth.

Recovery ships waited for the rocket’s booster section as it fell under a parachute into the Atlantic Ocean. The top sections were only mock-ups and will not be recovered.

Though only a test flight, the two-minute launch took several years of planning and marked the first time in 28 years that a rocket took off from Canaveral. Ares is connected to NASA’s Constellation project, which would replace its space shuttle program.

Agency officials hope to gain valuable information from the $445 million launch, largely from roughly 700 sensors aboard Ares, which went about 28 miles into the atmosphere.

The launch was delayed three and a half hours because of bad weather.

NASA says Ares will be ready by 2015 to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. However, a report submitted last week to President Obama from the U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee found the project is too expensive and such a voyage could not occur until 2017. In August, a report to NASA from Aerospace Corp., a federally funded research-and-development group, also concluded the project was underfunded.

Copyright 2009 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  For educational purposes only.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.


1. Define prototype.

2. What is the Ares I-X?

3. What do NASA officials hope to accomplish with the Ares launch?

4. What should Ares be ready to do by 2015?

5. If ready by 2015, why won’t this mission happen until 2017?

6. Wikipedia reports that President Kennedy:

Ensured continuing funding for the [Apollo] program, shielding…spending from the 1963 tax cut and diverting money from other NASA projects. This dismayed NASA’s leader, James E. Webb, who urged support for other scientific work.

In conversation with Webb, Kennedy [reportedly] said:

Everything we do ought to really be tied in to getting on to the Moon ahead of the Russians […] otherwise we shouldn’t be spending that kind of money, because I’m not interested in space […] The only justification for [the cost] is because we hope to beat [the USSR] to demonstrate that instead of being behind by a couple of years, by God, we passed them.

Whatever he said in private, Kennedy needed a different message to gain public support to uphold what he was saying and his views. Later in 1963, Kennedy asked Vice President Johnson to investigate the possible technological and scientific benefits of a Moon mission. Johnson concluded that the benefits were limited, but, with the help of scientists at NASA, he put together a powerful case, citing possible medical breakthroughs and interesting pictures of Earth from space. For the program to succeed, its proponents would have to defeat criticism from politicians on the left, who wanted more money spent on social programs, and on those on the right, who favored a more military project. By emphasizing the scientific payoff and playing on fears of Soviet space dominance, Kennedy and Johnson managed to swing public opinion: by 1965, 58 percent of Americans favored Apollo, up from 33 percent two years earlier. After Johnson became President in 1963, his continuing defense of the program allowed it to succeed in 1969, as Kennedy had originally hoped.

Read the “Background” information below, and visit the websites under “Resources.”  Do you think the U.S. should make visiting the moon a priority once again, regardless of the cost? (Should the president/Congress direct that more money be spent on this program, and/or space exploration in general? Explain your answer.


Facts about the moon from the NASA website lunar.gsfc.nasa.gov/moonfacts.html.  The moon is 225,745 miles from the earth.
  • It takes several days of flight-time to get to the moon by rocket.
  • Only 12 astronauts have ever walked on the surface of the moon.
  • Astronauts have not gone to the moon since 1972.
  • From 1972 to 2007 only four spacecraft orbited the moon, Clementine, Hiten, Lunar Prospector and Smart-1.

More facts about the moon from essortment.com/all/kidsmoonmissio_rsdi.htm.

  • American astronauts have been to the moon six times. The first trip to the moon was in 1969. The last trip was in 1972. These missions to the moon were called “Apollo” missions. The moon is about 238,900 miles away from the earth, so it took three days to get there.
  • Before the first Apollo mission, no one knew if it would be safe to land on the moon, but in 1969, when our first astronauts landed there, we found it was safe. The first men to land on the moon were Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins. They went to the moon on a rocket named “Saturn 5.” Neil and Buzz actually walked on the moon, while Michael stayed in the spacecraft.
  • The spacecraft the astronauts flew had a “command module,” and a “lunar module.” The command module stayed in orbit around the moon, while the lunar module landed on the moon. The lunar module was called the Eagle.
  • When Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the surface of the moon, he said “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!”
  • We now know the moon has no living things. It has no air and water, so plants, animals and people cannot live there.
  • A day on the moon is about 28 earth days long. A moon day has 14 earth days of very hot sunlight, and 14 earth days of freezing dark nights. We also know the gravity on the moon is not very strong, so the astronauts could jump high. They collected “moon rocks” and “moon dust” to bring back to earth. Because there is no air, they had to wear spacesuits, and carry oxygen. Oxygen is the part of the air people need to breathe to live.
  • On the moon there is no wind. There is no rain. The footprints our astronauts made in the moon “dirt” will be there forever. When they put up an American Flag, they pushed the pole for the flag into the moon and used a piece of metal to hold the flag out, because there is no wind to make it fly!


 Watch a video of the Ares I-X launch at the NASA website.

For information on the Ares I-X from NASA, go to nasa.gov/mission_pages/constellation/ares/flighttests/aresIx/index.html.

For information on the Apollo mission to the moon from NASA, go to nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/index.html.

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