Washington D.C., November 16, 2009 – Citing Time magazine’s selection of NASA’s proposed Ares rockets “The Best Invention of the Year” based on a single purported “test flight” of the vehicle on October 28th , the Space Frontier Foundation congratulated NASA on its propaganda triumph. The Foundation pointed out that the rocket launched by NASA was not an Ares 1 at all, but a dummy vehicle cobbled together from pieces of other space systems, an elaborate mock-up shaped and painted to look like the actual vehicle, which isn’t even scheduled to fly for another 7 years.
“While many reporters know that Ares 1 is far behind schedule and likely to be canceled as an unnecessary distraction from real exploration missions, apparently Time magazine fell for this publicity hoax. There was no boy in the balloon and there most definitely was no Ares rocket launched in Florida last month,” said the Foundation’s Rick Tumlinson. “If anyone at Time had taken the time to go beyond the NASA and contractor flacks, they would have found out what most people in the space community already knew. This was a marketing ploy designed to save a program threatened with imminent cancellation.”
Time’s assertion that the Ares 1 rocket is “The best and smartest and coolest thing built in 2009” is a simple error of fact and should be immediately retracted. There was no Ares 1 vehicle built in 2009.
Even if a real Ares 1 launch vehicle were ever built and launched, it would still be an obscenely wasteful duplication of existing commercial and military rockets, which doesn’t seem too smart or cool during our federal budget meltdown.
Writing in the Huffington Post, Apollo Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin put into words what is common knowledge in the space launch community: “Turns out the solid booster was – literally – bought from the Space Shuttle program, since a five-segment booster being designed for Ares wasn’t ready. So they put a fake can on top of the four-segmented motor to look like the real thing. Since the real Ares’ upper stage rocket engine, called the J-2X wasn’t ready either, they mounted a fake upper stage. No Orion capsule was ready, so – you guessed it – they mounted a fake capsule with a real-looking but fake escape rocket that wouldn’t have worked if the booster had failed. Since the guidance system for Ares wasn’t ready either they went and bought a unit from the Atlas rocket program and used it instead. Oh yes, the parachutes to recover the booster were the real thing — and one of the three failed, causing the booster to slam into the ocean too fast and banging the thing up…. So, why you might ask, if the whole machine was a bit of slight-of-hand rocketry did NASA bother to spend almost half a billion dollars (that’s billion with a “b”) in developing and launching the Ares 1-X? The answer: politics.”
The Space Frontier Foundation urges everyone who thinks that accuracy in the media is important to point their browser at http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1934027_1934003_1933945,00.html, drag that red slider all the way to the left, where it says “not important” and hit the submit button. After you’ve done that, ask your friends to do the same.
Let’s show the media that truth matters and that news should be based on objective reality rather than politics and PR.