I certainly could have timed a review of this book a little better, given that President Obama cancelled Project Constellation only a week or so ago. I haven’t yet decided whether Obama’s decision was good or bad. Having now read Project Constellation: Moon, Mars & Beyond, one of Apogee Books Pocket Space Guides, I must admit I liked the Project Constellation architecture. But the Ares I-X was a joke, and the new “Flexible Path” has much to recommend it.
According to the back cover blurb of this book, it “helps the reader understand how the program was formed and what it is destined to accomplish”. It does this by first quoting extracts from the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), particularly the Design Reference Missions: crew transport to and from ISS, unpressurised cargo to and from the ISS, pressurised cargo to and from the ISS, lunar sortie crew, lunar outpost cargo delivery, lunar outpost crew with cargo, and Mars exploration. (Unfortunately, the chapter describing these is mis-titled “Exploration Space Architecture Study”.) These seven missions would have been implemented using the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles, and a family of spacecraft which included the Orion crew exploration vehicles and the Lunar Surface Access Module (which Project Constellation: Moon, Mars & Beyond claims was rumoured to be named Artemis, but was actually named Altair).
It’s worth noting that the Ares V launch vehicle would have been more powerful, and bigger, than the Apollo programme’s Saturn V – with a throw weight to LEO of 188,000 kg and a throw weight to TLI of 71,100 kg. The Saturn V could manage respectively 118,800 kg and 47,000 kg. The Saturn V was also 110.6 metres tall, while the Ares V would have been 116 metres. But then, the Orion capsule was approximately two and half times the size of the Apollo capsule. It would also have carried a crew of six, landed on dry land, and been re-usable up to ten times. Orion was often described as “Apollo on steroids”.
Project Constellation: Moon, Mars & Beyond is filled with diagrams and tables giving the likely dimensions and performance of the planned hardware. It crams a lot of information into its forty-eight pages. The pictorial pages at the end of the book show diagrammatically the planned use of the Project Constellation architecture to perform each of the Design Reference Missions. There are also a number of artist renderings of the spacecraft. It does pretty much what its back-cover claims. It’s just a shame that it has now become alternate history…
Pocket Space Guide – Project Constellation: Moon, Mars & Beyond, Tim McElyea (2007, Apogee Books, ISBN 978-1894959-49-0, 48pp + 47pp of diagrams and artists’ impressions)