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I have no doubt. But it's a case of the tail shaking the dog. Without the manned flights the space program might have died on the vine, or worse turned into a military only thing. Manned flight represents an investment. It's not the flights themselves, but the infrastructure and the technology they represent. But if we lose the infrastructure, we're done. The cost of the moon trips represented the cost of developing everything on a crash basis. Now we can slow down and spend less money with an eye towards getting the Government out of launching rockets and into the buying tickets. Maybe Space X will succeed.
Uncle Sherm wrote:As for costs, the Shuttle Program was the biggest scientific boondoggle of all time, which is what tends to happen when engineers are left to their own devices. A return trip to the moon would make a great showcase for new technology that demonstrates how far we've come in 50 years, much better than 30 years of the shuttle program did. The Apollo program used a ship with the computing power of a modern cell phone. How far has our Rocket Technology come? How would a Falcon 9 Heavy compare to the Saturn V in terms of power and efficiency? How much farther do we need to go before we can contemplate a manned mission to another planet? All questions that can be answered by a real organized effort to go to the moon.
The shuttle was pretty much broken at the specification level, which was controlled by congress. Any engineer could have come up with something better. The shuttle was required to:
be reusable - probably not too bad an idea
grab and return a Key Hole spy satalite (presumably the size of the Hubble) - this one killed the shuttle
be single stage to orbit - (all good means to orbit are SSTO. That means all SSTO are good, right?)
have an onboard laboratory. Essentially drag your space station up and down the gravity well every launch.
Essentially the shuttle spec was to be this giant contraption that could perform every possible mission on every launch. The whole deal with the push to use it to build a space station or do have make work projects on board is laughable considering the US still had an extra Saturn IV to launch a "Skylab II" while the shuttle was being fought over/designed/built. Turkeys like this aren't the action of "letting the engineers run the show" (you get something like the blackbird, which looks great until you see the costs, especially vs. a satellite) they are what you get when you let politicians do rocket science (or any engineer by committee action). Every vested interest made sure the shuttle could do his thing, and the total mass was unbelievable and had to be lifted to orbit every time.
The "keep the shuttle jobs & costs" brigade is similar.
Yeah, I'd like to see a source claiming that, if it exists. Not that it detracts too much from the argument that politicians piled too much into the expectations of the shuttle, but SSTO for the shuttle is not something I've ever heard or read as an expectation at any point in its development.
After checking, it looks like NASA was pretty clear about not making a SSTO craft (they thought the concept was/is ridiculous). Since the shuttle basic design include main engines firing from 0m/s to orbital velocity (plus solid rocket boosters that act as additional parts of stage 1), I always thought this was a kludge to make it look like SSTO. No way to tell what the committee members were thinking, but it still looks like a push to SSTO from the outside.
wumpus wrote:After checking, it looks like NASA was pretty clear about not making a SSTO craft (they thought the concept was/is ridiculous). Since the shuttle basic design include main engines firing from 0m/s to orbital velocity (plus solid rocket boosters that act as additional parts of stage 1), I always thought this was a kludge to make it look like SSTO. No way to tell what the committee members were thinking, but it still looks like a push to SSTO from the outside.
That isn't to make it look like SSTO, that is to make sure you don't need to start any engines in flight. The Shuttle only stages in terms of dropping bits off it, not in terms of starting a new rocket stage up.
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