NASA’s Lunar-Mars Program Raises Safety Concerns

May 21, 2008 09:15 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A report by the Government Accountability Office questions the safety of NASA’s planned rocket, intended for travel to the Moon and then Mars.

30-Second Summary

The program was first envisioned in 2004 by President Bush as a way for NASA “to take the next steps of space exploration.”

The $100 billion Project Constellation aims to get NASA back into lunar expeditions by 2020 with the purpose of building a base near the moon’s south pole. By approximating the living conditions thought to exist on Mars, this base will then be used to prepare astronauts for an eventual Mars mission.

However, a report released by the Government Accountability Office on April 3 has cast doubt on the safety of the program’s Ares I rocket, which is set to replace the space shuttle in 2010.

The report states that vibrations from the rocket could prove too strong for astronauts and prevent the ship from surviving takeoff.

The program has also been criticized by presidential hopeful Barack Obama and a growing number of scientists.

In November, Obama said he would delay the program for five years and re-direct its funding toward education. And during a March meeting of the Planetary Society at Stanford University, a group of former mission managers, planetary scientists and astronauts said that an asteroid mission would better prepare astronauts for a Martian landing.

Nonetheless, some members of Congress are trying to secure funding to sustain NASA initiatives. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., said that after the space shuttle is retired, “we are going to have a gap no matter what. Additional funding will help reduce that gap.”

Headline Link: ‘Report Questions Space Vehicle’s Safety’

Background: Bush’s 2004 space plan, Project Constellation and the Ares I

The 2004 version of the space plan
Project Constellation
The Ares I rocket

Video: Project Constellation

Reactions: ‘NASA’s Global Exploration Strategy’

Opinion & Analysis: Effective funding allocation

Reference: NASA’s Mars Exploration Program

Related Topic: Life on Mars

Related Topic: ‘Today’s Space Race’


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