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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Aug 17, 2006 21:54:54 GMT -6
NASA goes back to the future
Engineers dust off Apollo relics in bid for next moonshot
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (AP) -- Jim Snoddy and other NASA engineers did not just go to the drawing board or a warehouse when they needed ideas -- and parts -- for America's next lunar rocket. They went to space museums.
Facing tight deadlines and uncertain budgets as it works on President George W. Bush's plan to send astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars, NASA is both cannibalizing and analyzing pieces of its glory years, namely the Apollo program that first put humans on the lunar surface in 1969.
Snoddy, a manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, has been removing valves and other parts from Apollo exhibits as he oversees construction of the upper-stage engine on the new moon rocket, dubbed Ares 1. Some of the pieces and accompanying documentation are not available anywhere but museums, he said.
The move makes sense: The new engine Snoddy is working on, a J-2X, is an updated version of the J-2 engine that powered the third stage of the 363-foot (109-meter) Saturn V rocket during Apollo.
"We've gone back to the days of simplicity. You can get more complicated, but why bother?" Snoddy said.