As the Space Shuttle approaches retirement next year and the International Space Station (ISS) nears completion, NASA is building a new fleet of rockets and spacecraft under the NASA Constellation Program. The purpose is to build a set of vehicles that will ferry astronauts to the ISS, return to the Moon for exploration type missions, missions to near Earth asteroids and possibly even a mission to Mars. Constellation consists of the Ares I launch vehicle capable of launching astronauts to low Earth orbit (LEO), the Ares V heavy lift vehicle capable of launching astronauts and equipment to the Moon and beyond, the Orion capsule (on the outside looks like an Apollo spacecraft but bigger and with upgraded electronics and systems) and the Altair Lunar Lander.
The program has been under heavy criticism for its program delays and cost overruns. The Augustine Panel (commissioned by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy convened an independent review of the present and planned efforts of NASA’s human spaceflight program) published a 157 page report along with many recommendations. In regards to the Constellation Program the commission stated that current budget will not allow the completion of Ares I/Orion until 2017 and a delay in getting us back to the Moon until after 2025. Everyone seems to be waiting anxiously to hear what President Obama and the new Administrator of NASA, retired General and former NASA Astronaut Charlie Bolden has decided on the future direction of NASA’s human spaceflight program and if that future includes the Constellation Program.
Anyway, NASA’s latest video on “Constellation Year in Review 2009” is attached below.