Space: Flight of the Hangar Queen

Two catastrophic failures out of five firings, an accidental explosion on a test stand, a three-year lag in the development schedule, and a $552 million price tag have all earned NASA's liquid-hydrogen-fueled Centaur rocket such derisive nicknames as "the Hangar Queen" and "the Edsel of the Missile Industry." But as it separated from its Atlas booster and ignited in a burst of pale blue flame high above the Atlantic Ocean last week, Centaur took on its proper dignity. The most powerful rocket of its size in the world, built to fire a one-ton Surveyor spacecraft to the moon,...

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