How the New Mission to the Moon Will Work

The NASA 2009 Astronaut Candidate Class recruitment—for the first mission to the Moon in four decades—may be over, but if you didn't send your résumé, don't worry: you can still be a space couch potato and look at the pretty images and videos, like this newly-released NASA simulation showing how the whole thing is going to work.

Rather than building a huge, expensive, and very complicated rocket carrying a smaller space ship—like the powerful Saturn did in the Apollo missions—the Constellation program will use two rockets to send a larger spacecraft. The first rocket will carry the lunar lander along with a propulsion stage into Earth orbit. The second one, the Ares I launch vehicle, will carry the Orion spaceship with the astronauts on board, which will be rendezvous with the lunar lander in orbit and dock. Once docked, the propulsion stage will push the combined craft to the moon and some lucky, smart, and courageous astronaut would be able to say: "It may not be the first step, and it certainly won't be the last one." Or "Oh boy, whooooopeeeee-doooo!"

Both work for me. [Constellation Program]

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