Review Panel Hears Rival Plans for New Spaceflights

NASA’s goal is to return to space after the retirement of the shuttles next year, but a panel reviewing the agency’s human spaceflight program heard very different ideas Wednesday on how to get there.
In dueling PowerPoint presentations before the 10-member panel, appointed by the Obama administration in April, NASA officials defended their progress in developing the next generation of rockets, while challengers said that they could do the job more quickly and less expensively.
The Delta IV Heavy rocket, which carries satellites into orbit for the military and other customers, could be upgraded for astronauts and perform the tasks of Ares I. The Delta IV would be safer and cheaper and could be ready in 2014, Mr. Gass said.
A NASA-commissioned study by the Aerospace Corporation concluded that the Delta IV could replace the Ares I, possibly at lower cost, but raised questions of how to move beyond low Earth orbit.
The Aerospace study also concluded that upgrading the Delta IV to carry astronauts would take five and a half to seven years, although on Wednesday several members of the panel appeared skeptical that it would take that long.
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