Introducing NASA’s “lone gunmen”

Posted by Daniel Pendick
on Wednesday, July 16, 2008

NASA’s lone gunmen say they have designed a better, safer, cheaper version of the Ares I crew launcher (above), one of the cornerstones of the post-Shuttle space program.   NASA
Remember the “lone gunmen,” the trio of militantly nonconformist Uber-geeks on The X-Files who tracked government conspiracies?  It appears NASA’s got an infestation of them, too.

In a story this week by Jay Reeves of the Associated Press, I learned of a merry band of dissident NASA engineers and managers who are quietly and mostly anonymously designing an alternative space-launch system to the well-underway Constellation program.

It’s called the Jupiter project. Reeves says the dissident rocketeers — a few dozen in number — think their design is simpler (and therefore potentially safer) and $35 billion cheaper than the Constellation program’s Ares I crew lifter and Ares V cargo launcher.

“Bah!” says Steve Cook, director of NASA’s Exploration Launch Projects office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, who the Associated Press interviewed about the “underground” Jupiter project. Cook knows all about the design, and says it won’t work. The dissidents say they just want an unbiased outside review.

In the past, NASA has gotten into trouble because of a Titanic-like reluctance to change course in response to new data.  Perhaps the relatively small amount of cash it would take to have a qualified expert take a look at the Jupiter project would be well worth it to head off the inevitable conspiracy theories.

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