Rogue NASA Science Team Pitches New Spacecraft Designs to Obama

NASA, when it isn't finding rogue space lights or mysterious BOOMs of the non-Steve Jobsian variety, is apparently sending rogue science teams to brief President-elect Obama on the future of the space program.

These teams weren't sanctioned by NASA top brass, so in a way they are effectively going rogue, not unlike an Alaskan governor in a Saks Fifth Avenue. They were also not towing the company line about the future of the space program. In fact, they argued that NASA should scrap the upcoming Ares rocket program in lieu of a new program called Jupiter Direct, which relies heavily on proven current-gen space shuttle program technologies and rocket parts.

Rogue NASA Science Team Pitches New Spacecraft Designs to Obama

On paper at least, the Jupiter Direct program appears cheaper. Using a smaller and less cool-sounding rocket than the Ares 1, called the Jupiter 120, the program would require the modified external tank from the space shuttle, which would be shot into space by two RS-68 liquid-fuel engines. Liftoff would occur thanks to the two four-segment solid rocket boosters engineers would bring over directly from the existing shuttle program (which is obvious once you see that image).

And better yet, the Jupiter Direct program has longevity built right in. Because its engine configuration is theoretically more powerful than Ares, the 120 rocket would have the extra oompf necessary for a lunar flyby. A larger Jupiter 232 rocket would allow man (and woman) to land on the moon after a hookup with NASA's Orion lander capsule, which the program leaves unchanged.

Ultimately, the plan is about saving money and keeping space flight missions ongoing after the shuttle program is retired, not usurping NASA. The Obama transition team provided no comment on the rogue meeting, or on the Ares program, for that matter. [Popular Mechanics]