With Congressional backing behind them, it looks as if NASA is pressing forward with the Constellation program after a nine month study confirmed what NASA already suspected--that the Ares V rocket can return the space agency towards former glory.
(NASA) "We confirmed that Constellation's conceptual designs for both Ares V and Altair will enable us to land astronauts and cargo anywhere on the moon and to build an outpost supporting widespread exploration of the lunar surface," said Jeff Hanley, Constellation Program manager at Johnson. "This extensive review proves we are ready for the next phase: taking these concepts and moving forward to establish mature requirements." [...]
The review refined early configurations of the Ares V rocket to ensure its capability to deliver the Altair lunar lander, four astronauts and cargo anywhere on the moon and return the crew to Earth at any time. To accomplish those objectives, the current configuration of the Ares V will use six RS-68B liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen engines on a core stage along with two five-and-one-half segment solid propellant rocket boosters, which are a direct evolution from the first stage of the Ares I rocket. The Ares V upper stage will propel the Orion crew capsule and Altair to the moon using the same J-2X engine as the Ares I crew launch vehicle. The Ares V will stand about 381 feet tall and be able to send more than 156,600 pounds of cargo and components into orbit to the moon, and later to Mars or other destinations.
Altair will be capable of landing four astronauts anywhere on the moon, providing life support and a base for the first week-long surface exploration missions, and returning the crew to the Orion spacecraft for the ride home to Earth.
Even though a few space advocates are proposing an alternate "safer" path to reach Earth's nearest neighbor (hat tip: Space Pragmatism), NASA is probably determined to finish the path that it has started.
While there is no mention of dropping a few roaming space bases upon the lunar surface, it is good to see NASA focused upon returning humans to the lunar surface.
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