Mr. Davis is the director of the Ares rocket project. In a presentation in front of the FIRST Robotics Team 341 and the general public, he unveiled for the first time computer animation of the Ares I-X test rocket scheduled to take-off this summer.
There are three rockets that are part of the project — the Ares I-X test rocket, the Ares I manned rocket, and the Ares V cargo rocket.
The space shuttle program will soon be shutting down. The next manned space flight is not expected to launch for five years when the Ares I is complete. This creates a delicate situation. The United States will be dependent on Russia for transporting American astronauts back and forth to the space station. Hopefully, relations will warm through the efforts of new U.S. administration. For instance, what would happen if we have men at the space station and Russia attacks Georgia again? There is no immediate solution to this problem; however, Mr. Davis is confident the politics and budgets can be handled to ensure a smooth transition.
The Ares program is scheduled for the test flight of Ares I-X in 2009, the Ares I manned space flight in 2015, the Ares I and Ares V to the moon in 2020, and a manned flight to Mars by 2030.
The Ares I flight in 2015 will re-establish NASA’s ability to shuttle astronauts to the space station. The Ares I and Ares V flights in 2020 are meant to start a space station on the moon. The flight to Mars is independent.
When asked what happens if the Ares I-X test flight fails, Mr. Davis replied, “It would look bad. It would look worse than it really is. We would still learn a lot.” Would there be another test flight before sending humans up? “No, There will be no other tests.”
A lot is riding on the math, science and engineering abilities of the current NASA staff, as well as, the future generation of engineers in the audience. When asked why we are going back to the moon, Mr. Davis gave a good, long list of reasons. Perhaps the best reason was his personal interest — adventure and exploration. That seemed to be the same factor motivating the youth in attendance. Maybe that is exactly what we need to forge the ingenuity necessary to best serve humankind in the years to come.