Friday, Oct 31, 2008
A rocket at the centre of Nasa’s plans to return to the moon is so “dangerously flawed” it could kill its crew, agency engineers have claimed.
Concerns over the safety of the Ares craft prompted one engineer to resign, complaining of “catastrophic-level risks”.
The space agency has admitted that in certain conditions Ares could blast off into its own launch tower, and that other potential problems include the rocket vibrating so much that its astronauts could die before they reach orbit.
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But Nasa said the problems were “growing pains” and could be fixed before the US goes back to the moon in 2020.
“Nasa has a big reality check coming and I can’t begin to guess how it will all turn out,” Jeff Finckenor, a structural design engineer at the Nasa Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama, said in a memo to colleagues explaining his departure and quoted in the Times.
A prototype for the craft could be launched in Florida in July.
Once perfected, the rocket will be topped with a crew-carrying capsule which is intended to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and on longer-haul trips to the Moon and even to Mars.
This article was posted: Friday, October 31, 2008 at 5:20 am