With the space shuttle age dying down, NASA's next step is to return to the moon.
They are designing a new rocket (called Ares I) to do it, but there may just be a revolt going on among the astronaut corps over the design of that rocket.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, "the astronaut office is deeply unhappy with the design of Ares as it emerges from an important review that is in the process of being finished up now."
The Sentinel reports:
The concern is so great, the sources say, that there is some talk at the highest levels of NASA about the possibility of ditching the Ares, with its unconventional stick-like solid rocket booster first stage, in favor of a more conventional rocket design – one that sounds like the shuttle launch system without the shuttle.
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Astronauts are reportedly worried about whether safety systems are adequate, while engineers argue that redundant safety systems might weigh too much for the Ares boosters to lift. In the past, NASA's had to scramble to solve a "potentially fatal shaking problem," which sounds like the worst kind of shaking problem to have.
A NASA spokeswoman assured the Sentinel that there are no disputes or arguments or anything at all, really, happening with Ares I except sunshine and lollipops.
But a pissed-off astronaut corps is not something you really want when you're building a new rocket.
-- Richard Connelly