Here’s why NASA’s administrator made such a bold move Wednesday
Thursday March 14, 2019. 02:11 PM , from Ars Technica
Enlarge / NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks at Wednesday's Senate hearing. His rocket fuel of choice is not LOX/Kerosene, but rather Mountain Dew. (credit: NASA)
In a remarkable turnaround, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Wednesday said the space agency would consider launching its first Orion mission to the Moon on commercial rockets instead of NASA's own Space Launch System. This caught virtually the entire aerospace world off guard, and represents a bold change from the status quo of Orion as America's spacecraft, and the SLS as America's powerful rocket that will launch it.
The announcement raised a bunch of questions, and we've got some speculative but well-informed answers.
During a hearing of the Senate Commerce committee to assess America's future in space, committee chairman Sen. Roger Wicker opened by asking Bridenstine about Exploration Mission-1's ongoing delays. The EM-1 test flight involves sending an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a three-week mission into lunar orbit, and is regarded as NASA's first step toward returning humans to the Moon. This mission was originally scheduled for late 2017, but it has slipped multiple times, most recently to June 2020. It has also come to light that this date, too, is no longer tenable.
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