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NASA's New Moon Rocket Questioned Again

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We mentioned a

while back

that there are reports that the astronaut corps at NASA doesn't seem too thrilled with possible corner-cutting on the safety features of the developing Ares rocket, planned for use in the

Constellation

moon missions.

The 2007 edition of the annual report by the Aerospace Advisory Safety Panel, which reviews NASA's performance on such issues and others, came out this week. (You can read the 143 pages here.)

They didn't exactly throw cold water on the idea.

Panel members have found surprising anxiety among NASA employees associated with the Constellation program. In program development, the early stages are usually marked by enthusiasm and optimism. If anxiety appears, it will most likely be toward the end of a program when the hard realities of deadlines and resource limitations are paramount. If staff morale is at all diminished during this early phase in the lifespan of Constellation, that suggests to ASAP that the rationale for the program may not be sufficiently understood or accepted within the organization.

Not good. And though the panel found that many of the Constellation safety functions "are being performed in a very satisfactory manner," there was this observation about how things might go on the Ares-design project as NASA faces budget cuts and engineering issues:

The ASAP questions whether -- even with updating and reorganization -- the standards will be as rigorous and comprehensive as they should be.

We did like this ASAP quote, though, on more general matters:

NASA had a turbulent year in 2007, as it experienced an unusual assortment of nonoperational incidents. Among these were a murder/suicide at the Johnson Space Center, a strike by employees of United Space Alliance and the repercussions of the arrest of an astronaut...As reports of excessive alcohol use by astronauts in the preflight period began to emerge...

Yeah, that really was one hell of a year.

-- Richard Connelly

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