Stacking of the Ares I-X test vehicle has begun in Highbay 4 of the VAB at the Kennedy Space Center. Reading the details of this stacking as well as the activity that has led up to it, I am forced to compare and contrast the actual vehicle activity to some of the comments posted on the Internet by the Ares I-X haters and I've decided that the the erection of the Ares I-X is metaphorically giving all of the critics of the program "the finger" ... a 327.24 foot tall finger!
Standing nearly as tall as a Saturn V, the Ares I-X will be the first vehicle in nearly 3 and a half decades to cause the massive doors of the VAB to actually open all the way. It consists of a standard Space Shuttle SRB with a fifth segment simulator attached plus a dummy second stage which is topped by a mock-up Orion spacecraft and escape tower. Its mission is to be stacked, launched, flow through Max-Q and booster burn-out. Then be staged and have it's booster recovered. The target data to be gained is in the areas of vehicle and roll control, staging and separation, vehicle assembly, vehicle integration, launch operations, aerodynamic loads, thermal loads, vehicle structural loads, reentry dynamics of the five segment SRB and... in my opinion... how much can you piss off the arm-chair critics of the Ares I program.
When you do a bit of surfing or if you've followed the assorted forum-styled web sites, you'll find the critics freely tossing out the notion that the Ares I-X will teach us NOTHING and no data or useful lessons will be learned... zero, zip, na-da. They like to spew the fiction that the I-X is nothing like the Ares I and so it is a useless effort that equates to the launching of a model rocket.
Often I've countered by saying that the volumes of information gained in ground handling and pre-launch procedures alone are worth the effort. We're seeing much of that now. The truth is that you just don't slip a huge machine like this onto a launch wire in a school yard and light a fuse- which is the image that the Ares I haters want to depict. Indeed you may see some of them post here in retort to my point with the same old clap-trap that they always use.
I'd just say that instead you should listen to the folks who actually have hands-on this project, rather than the arm-chair critics who can do little more than vomit up the same tired and twisted slams against this project. The Ares I-X is growing- like a single middle finger directed toward the critics.... come to think of it, that'd make a cool T-shirt to wear to the launch... maybe I'll work on that one.