Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Little Things (Or Big!)

Sometimes the little things (or in this case, the "big" things) get forgotten. Recently, there has been much hype about the test of the Ares I-X rocket, which was scheduled to lift off today but was scrubbed due to weather. And while the engineering is quite simply, amazing, what I find equally as amazing is the platform it sits on...the mobile launch platform, some may know it as "the crawler".

Some quick crawler factoids:
Height: 20-26 feet
Size: 31 feet long, 113 feet wide
Weight:5.5 million pounds
Fuel Capacity:5,000 gallons
Fuel Consumption:42 feet per gallon, 125.7 gallons per mile
Maximum speed:2 mph
Tread belt shoes:456
Tread belt shoe size:7.5 ft long, 1.5 feet wide, 2,200 pounds

Yes, it has made cameos in nearly every space movie (Apollo 13 comes to mind) but it is never really given the credit it deserves. And now, with the new Ares launch vehicle the crawler has been a part of three generations of space vehicles:

...from the mighty Saturn...

...to the sophisticated Space Shuttle....

...and now to the advanced Ares.

The Mobile Launching Platform (one of two!) has always been the last earthly object to touch an astronaut crew and their bird. It has rolled out the great (Apollo 11), the memorable (Apollo 13) and the tragic (STS-51L and STS-107). It has rolled out the new (Ares) and untested (Space Shuttle). And if my intuition is worth anything, it will continue to serve steadfast to the ideals of NASA and the advancement of space technology!