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Sunday November 14th 2010

NightSky: Story of the Week – Is Ares 1-X the right next step for NASA?

Each week I pick out my favourite astronomy based news item.

This week saw a lot of hype about the NASA Ares 1-x and how it was the next step in spacecraft technology set to improve NASA’s ability to put payloads into low earth orbit, and potentially beyond.  However, not everyone believes this is the right focus for NASA as described by the following BBC report.  Keep in mind however that Ares 1-x is due to launch this Tuesday 27th

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By Jonathan Amos

Ares 1-x on the Launch Pad

Ares 1-x on the launchpad

Science reporter, BBC News

Ares 1-X on the launch pad at KSC (Getty Images)

Ares 1-X: Work on the “program of record” continues

Experts asked to review the US human spaceflight programme have given strong support to the use of commercial services to launch astronauts.

The Augustine panel published its final report on Thursday and said America could find cheaper, faster successors to the shuttle in the private sector.

The US space agency is developing two new rockets and a crew capsule.

But the committee has told President Barack Obama that these systems no longer meet the US’s immediate needs.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington DC, lead members of the panel said that if crew transport services to the International Space Station were passed to the private sector, it would free Nasa to work on more difficult and more exciting objectives.

“We think this is a time to create a market for commercial firms to transport both cargo and humans between the Earth and low-Earth orbit,” said Norm Augustine, the panel chairman and a former CEO of Lockheed Martin.

“While that is certainly not simple, it is much easier than going to Mars. We think Nasa would be better served to spend its money and its ability – which is immense – focusing on going beyond low-Earth orbit rather than running a trucking service to low-Earth orbit (LEO).”

via BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Panel supports commercial space.

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