WASHINGTON NASA on Friday named its new lunar spacecraft Ares I and Ares V, using a Greek word for Mars, the planet where the space agency eventually hopes to land astronauts.
NASA chose Ares (pronounced AIR-eez) over hundreds of other proposed names, rejecting choices that included constellations and figures from ancient mythology. But two mythology experts questioned whether officials had erred and inadvertently named the ships for a Greek god of war, rather than the Roman term for the red planet.
"Ares is a name that is used to refer to Mars, and it connects to our vision to go to the moon and onto Mars,"NASA exploration chief Scott Horowitz said at a Cape Canaveral news conference.
The rocket that takes astronauts into Earth orbit will be called Ares I, giving a nostalgic nod to the early Apollo-era Saturn I rocket, with which it shares some traits. The spacecraft will be stacked on top of a single five-segment solid-rocket booster that can lift 55,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.
The vehicle that carries the mission's far bulkier lunar cargo will be called Ares V, harkening back to the heavy-lift lunar rocket, the Saturn V.
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More than 360 feet tall, it will put more than 286,000 pounds into orbit using five liquid-fuel engines mounted on a bulked-up version of the shuttle's massive external fuel tank.
The two ships will be launched separately, then hook up to form one vessel for the voyage to the moon.
The crew capsule will get yet another name, still to be determined. The crews of the flights, like their Apollo predecessors, can give their individual capsules nicknames, Horowitz said.
The first test flight could be as early as 2009.
NASA has already started the trademarking processing, but two experts on the ancient world said the space agency erred in its ancient mythology because Ares is more commonly known as the Greek god of war.
Horowitz initially claimed the name Ares was Roman for the red planet but later acknowledged that the word was mostly Greek. He said the space agency named the spacecraft after"the Roman use of the word."
"We didn't name it after the god of war; that was not our intent,"he said.
David M. Pollio, a professor of classics at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., said the Greeks associated Ares"with destructive capabilities in war,"Pollio said.
Laurel Bowman, a professor of Greek and Roman studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, said the Roman equivalent of Ares was called Mars."Ares was a relatively minor god."
Ares is spelled differently from the constellation Aries, which represents a ram and has nothing to do with mythological gods.
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