February 01, 2010, 9:15 AM — It will be a question of money over priorities. NASA is expected to release its budget for the next year and it doesn’t look good for some ongoing projects – the Ares heavy lift rocket likely the biggest cut. If further manned exploration of the moon is significantly delayed or nixed altogether, what does that mean for the myriad technologies NASA already has in development? Here’s a look at some of the best NASA technology currently in development that might never get to space.
Heavy lifting: NASA's Ares V rocket is the agency’s next generation heavy lifter. Ares V will serve as NASA's chief rocket that will carry everything form the lunar landing craft and materials for establishing a moon base, to food, fresh water and other staples needed to extend a human presence beyond Earth orbit. NASA says Ares V can carry nearly 414,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit. When working together with the Ares I crew launch vehicle to launch payloads into Earth orbit, Ares V can send nearly 157,000 pounds to the moon. It will likely be the biggest item lost in the budget process.
All-composite prototype spacecraft: With an eye toward building safer, lighter and tougher spacecraft, NASA said its prototype space crew module made up of composite materials handled tests simulating structural stresses of launch and atmospheric reentry.
What about the network?: In a white paper issued last fall, NASA said its sophisticated Deep Space Network would be modified to meet new performance and interoperability requirements for its planned moon shots. NASA stated: A small constellation of Lunar Relay Satellites (LRS) will be placed into orbits with long term stability that provide periodic coverage of the entire surface of the Moon as well as Low Lunar Orbit (LLO). NASA said the Interplanetary Internet must be tough enough to withstand delays, disruptions and disconnections in space. Glitches can happen when a spacecraft moves behind a planet, or when solar storms and long communication delays occur.