14 January 2009
The Ares V rocket is being designed to launch the next crewed mission to the moon. The idea is that the Ares V would do the heavy lifting, bringing the lunar orbiter and lander up to Earth orbit, where they would meet up with the astronauts who would launch on the smaller Ares I. Then the whole package would head to the moon.
It’s a cool plan for getting back to the moon, but the Ares V rocket will be used for much more than that. The ability to launch huge payloads (180,000 kg; six times as much as the Space Shuttle can lift) would enable some really impressive projects to take shape really quickly.
With a rocket the size of Ares V, the space station could be built in a handful of launches. The huge capacity is especially important for astronomy, where the size of the mirror is everything. Check out this Science @ NASA article about the future of space telescopes with the Ares V.
Of course, the real question is whether NASA will ever build the Ares V. It’s possible that the Constellation program will be drastically changed or canceled by the new administration. We will see soon enough.