Lift Off!

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Elise Collins writes, The Ares I-X rocket will be launched Tuesday morning…

The Ares I-X rocket will be launched Tuesday morning, October 27th, off of launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Ares I-X is part of a three part flight test program that is testing the Orion Launch Abort System. The Ares I-X is the first rocket to be tested, followed by the Ares I-Y and then the Orion I in 2015. These rockets are being tested to see if the design is safe enough to take astronauts to the moon. NASA wants to “return to the Moon for ambitious exploration to the lunar surface and then to travel to Mars and destinations beyond” (NASA website – www. nasa.gov). You may be asking yourself ‘why are we trying to go to the Moon and not Mars?’. Homer Hickam, a former astronaut trainer and author of the bestseller Rocket Boys, says “I’m a big supporter of going back to the Moon. I believe it’s part of the Earth.” He feels it’s our “natural domain” and could be used for all sorts of useful purposes, such as drilling for Isotope Helium 3, a possible fuel for fusion reactors (the rocket engines of the future). However, he thinks that “We’re a long way away from putting people on the moon.” After all, the Ares I-X launch is only part of a rocket program to get man back to the moon. Since the U.S.A. already put man on the moon in the original Apollo missions, it has been questioned by the Augustine Report, if we should use the new rocket designs. Deputy Director of History Headquarters Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Rick Sturdevant, Ph.D., says “These are new rockets and whenever you build new hardware, you run a higher risk then if you’re using existing hardware.” He thinks that the new rockets will probably be able to get man to the Moon once again, “They’re designed to do that and probably will.” When asked if we should focus on Mars or the Moon, he replied “We need to focus on Mars, but maybe we can practice the things we might have to do on Mars on the Moon.” However, we would never be able to get to Mars or even the Moon if it wasn’t for the principles of rocketry. Rockets work because of Isaac Newton’s Third Law – “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. For example, in a rocket the fuel is forced out (action), and the rocket moves the opposite direction (reaction). The strength the rocket is being pushed is called thrust, which is caused by the speed of the forced fuel (greater speed equals greater thrust). Most missiles and model rockets use solid fuel (has to burn without exploding), to achieve their thrust (when the fuel burns it is turned into gas, which is then propelled from the rocket). Space shuttles use liquid fuel (quite a lot; it takes 4 million pounds of fuel to launch a 200,000 pound space shuttle), which is them put into a combustion chamber, and burned into a high pressure gas. Newton’s Law works because you started with zero momentum (you always have to have the same amount of momentum), therefore to balance the momentum you go the opposite direction. It may seem that gas, no matter how fast, is too small to push a large object, however millions of molecules added together creates enough force to take us into the skies.The Ares I-X uses these simple principles of rocketry to blast off into the great unknown… space. We will see if it can accomplish its mission, and if it’s truly ready to take us back to our “natural domain.” After all “They’re designed to do that and probably will.” So no matter what the controversy, look to the skies and imagine the future of the space program, because of the Ares I-X.

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