Wednesday, January 21, 2009

NASA Plans Largest Moon Rocket in History

According to Kathy Laurini of NASA, Ares V will not only be "the biggest rocket that's ever been built," but will hopefully enable enormous Hubble-dwarfing telescopes to be sent into orbit, as well as potential missions to the outer reaches of our solar system.

Ares V will stand at a proud 381 feet, with capabilities of carrying around 180 metric tons into orbit. To get an interesting perspective, the nosecone alone will have room for 8 schoolbuses, and it will have the power to carry 17 of them into orbit. Tests will most likely begin in 2018, with a possible moon mission in 2020.

The science and astronomy communities are very excited about what may result from larger than ever telescopes being launched into space. Astronomer Harley Thronson says it best. "It could revolutionize astronomy." Ares V may allow telescopes 3 times larger than Hubble to be used, improving sharpness of images dramatically and detecting objects 11 times fainter than Hubble can currently observe. A telescope twice that size could even be possible given a fold up mirror for the launch.

Besides launching giant telescopes, other missions that will benefit from Ares V include sending probes as far as the sun, Neptune, and the moon Titan. Earth-like planets around stars too distant to currently see might finally be visible.
Protostar and black hole research could drastically improve.

"I can't wait," says Thronson. He's not the only one.

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