On October 27th 1961, 48 years ago, the first Saturn 1 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral. This mission, SA-1, was not a complete rocket, and it did not go into orbit. Only the first stage was live, with the upper stages being merely dummies, and it performed only a sub-orbital loop. It was not even the rocket that was planned to take men to the moon. That would be the Saturn V; this would instead lead to the Saturn 1B, its little brother. And when it eventually flew with men on board, it would carry not the winged spacecraft of SF lore, but a conical capsule that would fall to Earth beneath parachutes. But it was a first step.

On October 28th 2009, 48 years later, the first Ares 1 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral. This mission, Ares 1-X, was not a complete rocket, and it did not go into orbit. Only the first stage was live, with the upper stages being merely dummies, and it performed only a sub-orbital loop. It was not even the rocket that is planned to take men to the moon. That will be the Ares V; this will instead lead to the Ares 1, its little brother. And when it eventually flies with men on board, it will carry not the winged spacecraft of SF lore, but a conical capsule that will fall to Earth beneath parachutes. But it is a…

You know what? I’m not even sure what it is, other than Groundhog Day on a cosmic scale with a budget to match.

I’ve lived and breathed space exploration since I was a child, but I’m finding it really hard to get excited.