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And then there was two…. February 25, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, sadness, sickness, Society.

….or maybe one, it depends on whether they can launch an unfunded STS-135 in June or not.  Back in the day, each shuttle was expected to fly at least 100 missions, and make going into orbit like going to….well, if not Cleveland, maybe, say……the South Pole?  Exotic, but still done fairly regularly.  Didn’t happen.  Busted design.  Way too fragile.  And now, the best of ’em all, Discovery, has flown for the last time.  All the astronauts agree, pretty much – Discovery has always been the best ship. 

While I respect the technology that has gone into the shuttle tremendously, I just don’t care very much about it.  It’s pretty cool, but not much to get excited about.  Any one of the Gemini missions means more to me than pretty much all shuttle missions combined.  It was the worst of both worlds – reliable ‘enough’ to make LEO incredibly boring, but unable to go anywhere else, while also being horrendously expensive and inefficient. I think capsules are better than this compromised design – BUT, if you could develop a true two-stage shuttle with a flyback booster, as was originally envisioned, perhaps it could have worked, but I don’t know if the technology was ever really there.  It appeas SSTO is a dead end with current or near future technology.  Hard to believe that back in the late 60’s, when they were first talking about the shuttle, they were forecasting over 60 flights – PER YEAR!  The entire program, over 30 years, has only flown 133 missions, with 2 catastrophic failures.  And very soon, within the next few months, this nation will have no manned access to space.  Unless, of course, private industry succeeds where government has failed – failed as it must. 

I agree, totally – Apollo was a trap.  In the 1950s, the US was on the path to a truly sustainable space program, one based on winged vehicles that would land on normal runways.  However, when Sputnik and then Vostok 1 happened, that ‘natural development’ of winged vehicle, expanding the flight envelope gradually into space and then orbit, went out the window, and we launched men into space like artillery, using huge throwaway boosters and capsules that splashed down in the ocean.  I don’t know when we would have gotten men in space had the 50’s program continued, but I do know that once they had gotten there, it would have been far more natural, normal, and regular – it would have just become a part of life.  We may not have gotten to the moon yet in that scenario, but space travel would likely be something that was just done, by now, and not still a high risk experimental enterprise.  40 years of government involvement upset that natural order and have left us about where we were back in the late 50s, trying to develop sustainable means to get manned access to space cheap enough for private industry to sustain. 

Any thoughts, Colleen?

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