Tuesday NASA's new rocket arrived at the launching pad for a test flight next week. Meanwhile, the future of the U.S. spaceflight program is up in the air.
It's the first time in 34 years that a rocket other than the space shuttle has stood at Launch Pad 39-B. NASA modified the pad for this rocket, which is supposed to eventually carry astronauts to the moon.
The experimental Ares I rocket — taller than the Statue of Liberty — spent all night traveling from the hangar to the pad. The four-mile trip took more than seven hours, The Associated Press reports.
It was also reported, reporters and space center employees joined program engineers and executives for the grand unveiling which took place under bright white spotlights.
“This is really the first chance we've had to see it in all its glory,” offered John Cowart, deputy manager for the Ares test flight. “Not since about 1975 has something this large come out of the VAB.”
Though Ares I-X is much taller than the space shuttles that usually make the slow roll to the launch pads, it's primarily built from a space shuttle solid rocket booster, and is meant to test the flight characteristics of NASA's planned shuttle replacements.
“It's a different shape than what people are used to. It's that tallest rocket in the world, it's very thin for its height. But we're very confident it's going to work and we've done all that we can possibly do,” Cowart continued, KLJB reports.
Meanwhile, the $445 million rocket's rollout comes on the eve of a final report from an independent committee appointed by the White House to review NASA's plans for future human spaceflight.
During a series of summer meetings, the committee found that NASA does not have the budget to fund its vision of replacing the shuttle fleet by 2015 and returning astronauts to the moon by 2020. Led by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, the committee is due to release a report Thursday that details several options for President Barack Obama's consideration, some of which do not include the Ares I rocket at all, FOXNews reports.
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