After a weather delay, the new Ares I-X rocket lifted off of the launch pad down at Cape Canaveral in her maiden test flight. This flight lacked a payload, but was fitted with numerous sensors to test the design and flight of the rocket. The flight lasted just a few minutes, but that was more than enough time to obtain the information NASA was looking for.
The Ares rocket is the future of manned space flight for NASA, as the existing Space Shuttle fleet is due to be retired soon. The Space Shuttles have served as the work horse for the United States and the world for three decades, and suffered two fatal accidents in the process. The Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia were both destroyed in flight – the Columbia disintegrated during re-entry in 2003, and the Challenger exploded during lift-off in 1986.
Not only was the Space Shuttle fleet living past their designed life span, they were not equipped for the next stage of NASA’s mission, being the return to the Moon. Proposed by the Bush Administration, the US should be returning to the Moon by 2015. This will be the year the Orion Crew Capsule should be ready for use. The Constellation Program will use the Ares I rockets to launch the Orion Crew Capsule into space, while a larger Ares V rocket will lift heavy payloads to be sent directly to the moon.
I look forward to the day where we can see man walking on the moon again. Other nations, such as China, are already working on their own programs, creating a modern space race. Even though the US has already “won” that race, it will be a great achievement if the US can beat China in the race back to our celestial neighbor.