While watching the post firing press conference following yesterday's Demonstration Test Number 2 between members of the press and the ATK/NASA team, I made an observation.Something I stumbled upon that I thought was well, odd to say the least.
When asked by the press about how this motor test, an element of the old Constellation Program, would play into the new human space flight effort, Doug Cooke never mentioned the word "Constellation" once, calling the effort "The program of record" while members of the press kept referring back to Constellation. It's almost like saying "Constellation" without an astronomical, satellite, Naval, or even a fictional starship reference was tantamount to saying an epithet.
There has been a lot of controversy since the programs cancellation, and its demise is going to cause a lot of pain in space contractor community but calling it simply "the program of record" is a bit dismissive. Yes thats how the Augustine Committee refered to Constellation but it may have been an attempt to remain impartial on their part.
Project Constellation (CxP) did exist. It technically still does. Its terminal because it didn't receive the proper funding to carry out its mission, which was going back to the moon and picking up the baton left behind by Gene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17.
Whether or not CxPs “Apollo-like” model for exploration of the Moon, and setting up a permanent presence on the lunar surface was flawed is still open for debate. Elements of CxP like yesterday’s Solid Rocket Motor Test look like they will be integrated into a proposed Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV). The same could be said for the 345 ft gantry tower constructed for the now cancelled Ares 1. The Orion capsule, the piloted element of Constellation, will apparently live on as well. But it leaves one with this question: Is all of this just a patch to keep jobs alive or is this new program going to be goal oriented and sustainable?
Constellation may soon join the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) of 1989 as yet another failed attempt to get humanity out of the gravity well. However we have to acknowledge it existed and not sweep CxP under the rug. We have to examine what went wrong from all angles, technical and political alike, and learn from those mistakes or we will never create the long term sustainable space program that the United States so richly deserves.