Wednesday, July 08, 2009
. . . towards a manned European spacecraft. Maybe. Much as I'm pleased to think the world's largest economic bloc might be gearing up for a manned space programme, I have to ask what this not-even-off-the drawing-board Advanced Re-entry Vehicle is for. Unless very heavily modified, the Ariane 5 delivery system will be able to push it into low Earth orbit, no more. That would allow it to rendezvous with the International Space Station - a logical destination since the ARV is a modification of the unmanned space freighter already being used to deliver supplies to the ISS. But the Euro-ARV won't be ready to fly until 2025 at the earliest, and the ISS is scheduled to be retired in 2015. Could it be that Eurocrats are formulating plans for repurposing the ISS? There's already been talk about moving it into a higher orbit, or somehow drifting it outward to the Moon, or even sawing off and modifying modules to turn them into interplanetary spacecraft. Maybe Stephen Baxter was onto something when he wrote this . . .