Steve Cook: It takes a nation to build a rocket

Column by Steve Cook

If you don’t follow NASA more closely than noting a space shuttle launch or space walk on the International Space Station, you may not be aware that America is building a new rocket.

It’s called the Ares I, and it is America’s rocket that will carry humans into space for exploration missions to the moon and beyond.

Together with a larger follow-on rocket, the Ares V, and a capsule called Orion which will house our astronaut crews, the Ares I makes up our country’s new space transportation system.

America first landed on the moon almost 40 years ago when Neil Armstrong took the small step that was a giant leap for mankind. We didn’t stay very long back then.

Now we plan to build an outpost on the moon, and conduct scientific research there that will result in learning more about our own planet and the universe we live in. We also will learn the skills required to continue space exploration and expand human presence throughout our solar system.

Just as happened when we first went to the moon with the Apollo program, the technology innovation this activity generates will find many new uses in our nation’s economy, promoting national prosperity.

And just as in Apollo, it will take the collective skills and hard work of our entire nation to make this happen.

Right now, 213 companies in 32 states and Puerto Rico are working on the Ares I rocket – including seven firms here in Virginia.

America’s space budget is spent right here on Earth.

Building a new rocket provides many benefits. Besides technology innovation, economic stimulus and acquisition of new knowledge, it inspires the next generation of scientists and engineers and promotes our national security and our national pride.

For all these reasons, many other nations around the globe are rapidly expanding their own space programs. China has announced plans to send its astronauts to the moon.

They do so because not only does it take a nation to build a rocket – a new rocket also can help build a nation.

Steve Cook is the NASA Ares Projects Manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

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