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Old May 19 2014, 12:17 PM   #1
2takesfrakes
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Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

Obviously, the loss of Columbia was horrifying and tragic, but retiring the entire shuttle program over that seemed like curing the flu by killing the patient - at least to me.

Before that, the last shuttle accident like that was in the 80's - those seem like pretty good odds to me. And most of the shuttles were, in fact, made in the 80's, I realize that. But by the time Columbia had crashed and burned, it had only existed for a quarter of its design life.

Other shuttles could've been built, and the tanks could've been further modified. But cancelling the entire program, even in favour of Orion never did seem to make sense. A Low Earth Orbital System like the shuttle does, though. It was incredibly useful, it seemed. What are your thoughts on NASA's retiring the Space Shuttle Program?
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Old May 19 2014, 01:03 PM   #2
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

The shuttle shouldn't have been built in the first place. Purpose-built craft for cargo or personnel (but not both) would have been much more efficient, whether or not they were reusable. STS compromised the payload by having to boost the shuttle itself into orbit each time.

The idea looked great on paper when Von Braun designed the "space ferry" for building a station in orbit, and the Sänger Silverbird was designed for sub-orbital bombing runs. History didn't work out that way. We ended up making a "direct ascent/LOR" to the Moon, and then built a space station, and finally a space shuttle. All backwards.

Orion hasn't flown yet, but private spacecraft have. Perhaps Orion will eventually catch up, but even then I wonder if it will be as efficient as private services that do not get to swill at the public trough. (I realize NASA's budget has been shrinking, but the idea that it is a civilian operation is a fiction; it is still a government agency.)
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Old May 19 2014, 01:33 PM   #3
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

To put it another way, while the other NASA stuff that preceded it (Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo) were all missions looking for a vehicle, the Shuttle Program was a vehicle looking for a mission.

Now, don't get me wrong, I would hardly call the shuttles a waste! Plenty of valuable research and transportation was done with it. However, it was not very cost effective when you consider all the surrounding expense.

Challenger didn't stop the shuttle program, and neither did Columbia. I'm sure it would have wound down by now even if there hadn't been any losses.

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Old May 19 2014, 01:38 PM   #4
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

Falcon Heavy can carry twice the payload in mass to LEO at a fraction of the price of a Shuttle launch. So as of a year from now, the only thing that you'd be missing by not paying its exorbitant price is the mass that you can return back to Earth (was that ever ever used? that would be interesting to know). Now because the Shuttle is retired, you could build 10-20 space stations at the same price for launches. Or several space stations in geostationary orbit – and that would be real space, not several hours away by car from the Earth's surface like the ISS is.
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Old May 19 2014, 04:26 PM   #5
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

The shuttle never did anything it promised. It was supposed fly a mission a month. It was supposed to be turned around to fly again within a week-or-so. It was supposed to be cheaper than rockets to deliver payloads. It was only supposed to last 20 years max.

It was expensive, fragile, impossible to fly, and not worth the risk. They were only designed to fly for a certain amount of time and we surpassed it.

In short: yes. For some reason, America doesn't like change. We don't want the dollar coin even though it makes more sense from every perspective. Why? Because we already have the dollar bill. The same with the shuttle. Congress and the public would never allow and/or embrace another vehicle with the shuttle still in service.
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Old May 19 2014, 04:53 PM   #6
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

The space shuttle was an expensive boondoggle that ran for a lot longer than it should've. NASA was right to ax that from the budget in favor of pursuing new designs. At the very least, we should be able to get stuff into orbit a lot more cheaply than the shuttle could do it.
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Old May 19 2014, 06:45 PM   #7
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

Metryq wrote: View Post
The shuttle shouldn't have been built in the first place. Purpose-built craft for cargo or personnel (but not both) would have been much more efficient, whether or not they were reusable. STS compromised the payload by having to boost the shuttle itself into orbit each time.
It would have been a lot more workable if they had stuck with the orbiter's original design. The massive wings were added to give the shuttle better cross-range capability so it could be used to intercept soviet spy satellites in polar orbits (another brilliant idea by the U.S. Air Force). Minus the heavier wings and the redesign of its cargo bay, the shuttle would have been about thirty tons lighter and would have launched with an external fuel tank about half as large.

We ended up making a "direct ascent/LOR" to the Moon, and then built a space station, and finally a space shuttle. All backwards.
It's worse than that: the space station we built tumbled out of orbit and crashed before the space shuttle was ready to fly to it. Skylab actually would have been operable for another decade or more if Columbia had been available to service and upgrade it through the 1980s.

The backwards progression from the Saturn V days has been fully consistent. After the loss of the station, we started using the shuttle to launch satellites; after Challenger, we stopped using the shuttle for that and used EELVs as satellites and used the shuttle only for experimental missions and occasionally for servicing very expensive objects like the Hubble. There was a flash-in-the-pan success with building the International Space Station... and then the shuttle died, and NASA is stuck buying rides on Russian spacecraft while the Air Force mainly uses robots.

After 50 years of space exploration, our space program has finally arrived at 1962.
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Old May 19 2014, 07:04 PM   #8
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

Crazy Eddie wrote: View Post
After 50 years of space exploration, our space program has finally arrived at 1962.
Nice summation. I suppose it's better than never having left 1962. That reminds me of this Cadillac ad—note the Moon comment:


After Apollo 11, the public lost interest pretty quickly. "Bored." Although I wouldn't bet on "us"—US—being the only ones going back. Some private enterpriser, like the TV series SALVAGE, will go up there, do a few donuts with one of the rovers, then haul everything back and sell it on eBay.
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Old May 19 2014, 07:40 PM   #9
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

Just like putting a space station on the moon didn't make sense. Lets just go to Mars (face palm) It makes no sense whatsoever to practice somewhere 3 days away vice an 8 month trip (one way) - TRIPLE FACE PALM!!

I don't think the program should have been scrapped unless there was one in place to replace it. I'm also not opposed to the private market providing a service.

The problem is, now we have to hitch a ride with the Ruskies... that is totally unacceptable to me.
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Old May 19 2014, 07:45 PM   #10
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

As discussed previously, the shuttle was just wrong. It should never have been greenlit. The money could have been much better used on other launch systems.

Looking on the bright side, if it had launched as regularly as originally hoped, there would have been a list of dead astronauts stretching into the hundreds...
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Old May 19 2014, 07:56 PM   #11
Metryq
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

Yanks wrote: View Post
I don't think the program should have been scrapped unless there was one in place to replace it.
Respectfully suggest that you have that backwards: a replacement should have been in the works long before it became necessary to retire the active system.
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Old May 19 2014, 08:46 PM   #12
feek61
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

Metryq wrote: View Post
Yanks wrote: View Post
I don't think the program should have been scrapped unless there was one in place to replace it.
Respectfully suggest that you have that backwards: a replacement should have been in the works long before it became necessary to retire the active system.
The lack of NASA's vision is disturbing. How in the world can a system that was designed in the early 1970's and operated for over 30 years NOT have ANYTHING to replace it? Pathetic!!
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Old May 19 2014, 09:06 PM   #13
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

feek61 wrote: View Post
Metryq wrote: View Post
Yanks wrote: View Post
I don't think the program should have been scrapped unless there was one in place to replace it.
Respectfully suggest that you have that backwards: a replacement should have been in the works long before it became necessary to retire the active system.
The lack of NASA's vision is disturbing. How in the world can a system that was designed in the early 1970's and operated for over 30 years NOT have ANYTHING to replace it? Pathetic!!
Not remotely NASA's fault. Blame Congress for dicking NASA around for decades.
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Old May 19 2014, 09:12 PM   #14
feek61
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

True, basically I was talking not specifically about NASA but the country as a whole. Sorry it was worded so badly, lol.
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Old May 19 2014, 09:13 PM   #15
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Re: Should NASA Have Retired Shuttles?

The grateful citizens of Titusville, Edgewater, and a few other FL cities send the people of the United States Congress a big thank you for preserving the Space Shuttle program for as long as they did.
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