Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Mankind" might be going into space, but America isn't.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

"NASA Constellation program -- the successor to the aging space shuttle -- faces critical problems and might never work as intended, according to a congressional report set for release today.The report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, ticks off a list of difficult issues, especially with the Ares I rocket, which it said is prone to violent shaking on liftoff and might not have enough power to reach orbit with a capsule full of astronauts. . .

'Ares is subject to excessive vibration, called thrust oscillation, which has the potential of shaking the spacecraft to pieces, killing anyone aboard.'

'So far, no company is capable of producing a heat shield big enough to protect the Orion capsule when it re-enters Earth's atmosphere. Proposals to use thermal tiles like the ones on the shuttle are still in the design stage.'"

Otherwise, every thing is great, right on track. We know how well those heat shields work, too, Kaboom!

Not to worry, though, Chris Shank, a special assistant to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, says "We have a mitigation strategy."

That's great Chris, how about you show us how exactly you're going to mitigate the fact that the rocket system we're spending billions on is most likely going to blow up the minute it leaves the launch pad before the tax payers spend one more penny on this boondoggle.

[The Sentinel: "NASA already has awarded $7 billion in Constellation contracts and could ultimately spend nearly $230 billion during two decades on the program, GAO estimated."]

The NASA Constellation project web site reported on that on March 27 the the Orion crew module simulator was flown to the "U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to test Orion's astronaut escape system, which will ensure a safe, reliable escape for astronauts in case of an emergency."

In case of an emergency?

The idea here is NASA is rushing to get this new Constellation project going at the same time that it's trying to finish constructing the ISS so it can retire the Space Jalopy before another blows up. It should be clear by now that NASA can't walk and chew gum at the same time, never mind build a space station and send a man to Mars.

The best part of this whole plan is that after the retirement of the Space Jalopy, and while NASA works furiously to mitigate the little explosion problem involved with the Ares I (which, according to NASA, is using "parts of a decommissioned Peacekeeper as stand-ins during the test for the Ares I") before it risks putting a human on top of the thing, we'll be paying the Russians to move our astronauts and equipment up to the ISS. On 40 year-old space ship that has to crash into the Central Asian steppes when it lands, no less.

The Russians! The ones who're always threatening to cut the European's natural gas supplies, the ones who're building a nuclear power plant for the Iranians, the ones who just blocked Ukraine's and Georgia's membership to NATO. We're going to have to rely on them to get us into space for God knows how long?

Didn't we go to the moon once? By the time we get back there we'll be jostling with the Albanians for a parking space on Tranquility Base.

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