Orion-Ares Thrust Oscillation Problem Being Resolved
Going Directly To Mars, Without Moon Base, Would Be a Strategic Mistake, NASA Official Says
Engineers are moving toward a solution for the thrust oscillation problems that threaten to cause severe vibration in the Ares rocket for the next-generation U.S. space system, including the Orion space capsule and astronauts inside it, a NASA official said.
"I think we’re making great progress" in solving the problem, said David A. King, Marshall Space Flight Center director in Huntsville, Ala. He spoke before a breakfast of the Space Transportation Association at a restaurant on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Without a fix, vibration could be so severe in the first stage, just before burnout, that it might damage upper stages and astronauts.
"Certainly we have technical challenges," he said. But he expects this problem to be solved, just as others have in the Constellation Program to build the next-generation U.S. spaceship to replace the space shuttle fleet that is mandated to retire in October 2010.
The program has been successful, and is proceeding well, he said. "We hit all of those milestones," he said of the Constellation Program, even though "we have our challenges."
"I am confident" that the latest problems will be resolved without breaking the budget or schedule guidelines, he said.
Moon First, Mars Later
King also challenged those who say NASA is making a mistake in returning to the moon, where Apollo Program astronauts roamed decades ago. The critics ask why the United States doesn’t just proceed directly to a manned mission to Mars.
It makes sense to take things in steps, he said. It is but 225,000 miles to the moon, while it is 34 million miles to Mars. So it is prudent to establish a lunar outpost, where humans can learn how to live long-term in space, before the giant step of going to the red planet, he said.
He noted that other nations are preparing to go to the moon, including China, India and Japan.