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