This gallery will look at a few of the lesser known missions in the works. The picure above is of the Ares 1-X launch rocket, due to test launch in the summer of 2009 as part of the Constellation Program.
Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and IT Security blogs.
The return to using known technologies, designs and proven systems for crew safety is long overdue and makes success realistic. The 'capsule' design, the heat shield, and the escape system are all proven designs by the late Maxime Faget, the only person to design space craft to carry Americans into space and the only person to design spacecraft systems which got people to the moon. My personal interest is in how my father's systems will be utilized. As the designer of the first spacecraft computer (NSSC-1), the LEM guidance and control computer, the shuttle auto-land system and many others I expect my father's designs may well be 'dusted off' as well. What remains to ensure success is implementation of a fast-track 'design table to operational system' plan. We were able to get ideas from paper to space in a few years, not a decade. We still can and speed is of the essence for the economic stimulation the building of a space access infrastructure to be effective. Benefits of new and refined technologies filter down immediately--they don't have to wait for the completion of the program. Key to quickly getting new technologies available is to place responsibility for success on specific people rather than distributed groups and divisions. During Mercury-Gemini-Apollo there was always one person who had final responsibility for a system's success--or failure. This is the critical human element in successful space exploration--responsibility.
I had many rare and extended opportunities to interview and just chat with Max. He worked with my father in the early days of the program (M/G/A). Max worked with the designer of Edwards AFB/Mission Control etc, Walt Williams whom my father was Chief assistant to. I just found a signed proposal from Max in my fathers papers which I'm still sorting out 18 years after his death. Lots of gems there. Current project is to tell the stories of the designers, engineers, technicians and their family members during the successful days of the space program. I recently joined with a Russain-American to get the other side of the story from the hey day of the Cold War space race so now we can take the lessons and methods of the two successful space super powers and join them like Apollo-Soyuz. My father designed the docking ring system for that joint mission and while he was working on it said "They won't be able to argue for long up there--how can they mate those two ships and be enemies. Maybe it is a good place to make friends."