Retro Rocketeers

If a capsule was good enough to get a crew to the moon, these old-timers say, it’s good enough to get a crew back to Earth.

Lockheed Martin has considered both lifting bodies and ballistic capsules for the proposed Crew Exploration Vehicle. The rounded capsule is shown attached to a service module, which provides propulsion. (Lockheed Martin)
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As for NASA, it’s mulling the whole business over. In January, Administrator O’Keefe appointed retired Navy Rear Admiral Craig Steidle, who headed development of the Joint Strike Fighter airplane, as director of the new Office of Exploration Systems at NASA headquarters. For now, Steidle steadfastly refuses to speculate on what Project Constellation’s crew exploration vehicle ultimately will look like. And all O’Keefe would say before a Congressional committee in February is that a “spirited argument” is debating whether the vehicle will be reusable.

“We believe a capsule still makes a lot of sense as one element of the [crew exploration vehicle],” says Coats. It could be late summer before Steidle decides whether he agrees. If NASA opts for the capsule, it will come as no surprise to its contractors, nor to the Apollo veterans who came to the same conclusion 40 years ago, the last time the nation set its sights on the moon.

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