Ares I-X Launch

October 30th, 2009

Ares 1For the first time in nearly 30 years, a new type of rocket took off from Cape Canaveral this week.  Though the first launch attempt was delayed by the weather, the second was a resounding success, with the Ares I-X covering 25 miles over a period of two minutes before dropping into the Atlantic for recovery.

That the test flight went off so smoothly is a profound testament to the amount of effort the people who worked on the Ares program put into it.  In the words of launch director Ed Mango, “Think about what we just did.  Our first flight test, and the only thing we’re waiting on was weather.  That says you all did frickin’ fantastic.”

As for myself, considering that a friend and fellow aerospace student spent a rather long time referring to Ares as “the giant pogo-stick” because of the vibration problems the designers were having, I am both pleased and relieved that the launch went off so smoothly.

I got up early to watch the first launch attempt.  While I obviously didn’t get to see the rocket go off, I did get a great aerial view of the place from a helicopter camera, which in addition to the Ares I showed two other launch pads in various states of preparedness.  It was a beautiful sight, not least because for at least a moment, one was almost able to believe that after 50 years of effort Kennedy had finally blossomed into a real spaceport.

I do not know what the future of the space program will be.  Frankly, I am not optimistic about it.  With our economy in recession, our deficit growing by the second, and the current tug-of-money over health care, I cannot help but wonder how much longer Congress will continue to appropriate funds to such silly things as scientific research and space exploration.  With our schools growing to resemble dreary prisons more than they do institutions of learning and test scores falling further every year, I cannot help but wonder how much longer we will possess the intellectual capital necessary to embark on such endeavors.

But for a few brief minutes, as I watched a helicopter camera circle around a bustling spaceport, as I watched a column of fire rise into the sky, I was able to believe that my world would go on.

For additional information:

Liftoff! NASA Launches Moon Rocket Prototype on Test Flight,
Nasa Launches New Ares Rocket (video),

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4 Responses to “Ares I-X Launch”

  1. Tom |

    I hope funding for NASA continues to be sufficient to permit planned manned spaceflight programs to continue. I don’t think we can afford to look at every dollar spent on space exploration as a dollar not available to spend on something else. Basic research and advanced projects are critical in all scientific fields — that’s what moves humanity forward.

    One of the most interesting days I’ve ever spent was at Cape Canaveral with an official party watching a space shuttle launch. It’s hard to really understand how big that whole assembly is until you see the shuttle mounted on the rocket with the boosters attached. Then when it’s launched, the noise, the fire so bright that you can barely look at it — it’s sensory overload. It’s like seeing a high-rise building suddenly jump off the earth in a blinding flash and just disappear. All that slow-motion video of launches just doesn’t prepare you for the speed with which it all happens.

    By the way, have you considered applying for the astronaut program…? 🙂

  2. Brianna |

    It was actually what I considered first, before I decided on engineering. Then I looked up the criteria and realized that I wouldn’t pass the vision test (my vision’s not actually that bad, but I have lazy-eye which means I fall right under the bar, basically). So then I started looking at astronaut profiles, and realized that many of them had degrees and advanced degrees in engineering and thought, “Well, if I can’t be an astronaut now, at least I can work on the spacecraft, and then if technology ever manages to catch up with my vision problem… after all, even astronauts have to do something before they’re selected as astronauts.”

    Needless to say, I do not regret this career choice in the least 🙂

  3. Tom |

    I met a female astronaut when I was in the Pentagon. She came into my office on some sort of business (I don’t remember what), and we ended up talking about this-and-that for about an hour. She was in the program as a mission specialist and in training but hadn’t yet flown. She was also an engineering graduate student, or had just finished graduate school, when she applied, mostly on a lark. Then, to her astonishment, she was selected. Sad to say, I can’t remember her name.

    Astronaut pilots used to be required (probably still are) to be military pilots with a lot of jet fighter flight time and, in almost all cases, an engineering degree and/or experience as an engineering test pilot. Mission specialists are, of course, engineers and scientists of various kinds. I would have given my left whatever to be an astronaut (still would, for that matter), but despite being a military pilot with a lot of experience, I didn’t have fighter experience, and most important no engineering degree, although I worked on some flight test programs.

    If you’re really interested, you ought to look into it further. There are different requirements for pilots and mission specialists, and many things are waiverable or fixable.

  4. Brianna |

    Well, we’ll see what happens. Certainly it is not an option right now, but there’s probably no harm in throwing in an app once I do meet the criteria (and not just vision, a certain amount of work experience is required, along with a couple other things). I suspect the selection of future astronaut candidates will depend heavily on what happens with Russia, Ares, and the ISS.

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