SLS Cargo Version and selling space flightSeptember 23, 2011
This is an elusive little image. I had to do a lot of searching to find one of the proposed cargo variant of the Space Launch System heavy-lifter. It was pulled from a NASA CGI video clip that pans around it, then goes to the better-known manned version that looks so much like a Saturn V with SRBs, and uses the manned one for the launch video. This is a proposed vehicle, of course; I don’t know how much actual design has been done. It looks like it’s probably close to 400 feet tall, though! (I’ve not scaled it out.) The point of the SLS, of course, is to lift a whole lot of stuff into orbit, and this image certainly demonstrates that.
I know that most people are more interested in manned flight than how big a cargo something can lift, unless you fill the cargo compartment with school buses or something to give them a reference point. But the fact that the Orion capsule (I hate to call it that; it harkens back to Mercury for me) is significantly larger than Apollo is lost in the manned vehicle image. I think it’s hard to imagine that it’s bigger than the Saturn V because the Orion looks a lot like the Apollo in proportion to the launch vehicle.
I may just be blowing smoke here. It may not matter to anybody. Still, to get this thing paid for NASA will need congressional support, and that means the congresscritters need popular support, and that only happens if people thing spaceflight is cool. Sorry, but that’s about all there is to motivate the electorate. There’s no real motivation to “beat the Russians” or “beat the Chinese,” and we’re having a hard time selling American exceptionalism right now. (But that’s another story.)
I hope they get more CGI animations out, showing vehicles in orbit, building stuff, going to the moon, going to Mars. Can they spend a few bucks getting a heavy-duty Hollywood EFX house to do this so they look really good, and could be distributed on Blu-Ray? The Disney “Mission to Mars” film a few years back supposedly had some help from NASA, but it kind of veered off into the ancient aliens stuff. How can we make this exciting for people? They seem to love big-budget science fiction movies – can somebody like James Cameron do something without blue aliens or superheroes and make it sell?