Why The Space Shuttle Was A Failure
    By Hank Campbell | July 23rd 2011 07:42 PM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Under 5 launches per year instead of the 65 launches per year NASA projected. $450 million per shuttle launch instead of $50 million NASA projected. A risk of catastrophic failure of 1 in 100 instead of the 1 in 100,000 NASA projected and an actual failure rate of 2 out of 135. The space shuttle era is over and it was an unquestioned failure. Finally, with its passing, at least a few science writers have stopped being science cheerleaders and are echoing what I have said for a decade plus - the shuttle was a glorified delivery truck that had no value at all in advancing science, and the money could have been used better on real science projects.
    The major point of putting humans in space is to explore. (If you want to do science, it’s orders of magnitude cheaper to send robots, like the phenomenally successful Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which are nearly universally described as “plucky.”) But the shuttle is, in broad stokes, repeating steps that were successfully taken in the mid-60s.
    writes Amos Zeeberg at Discover.   And his article is spot on.

    It isn't the fault of the many fine engineers who worked on the shuttle, of course.   I go back to Florida to see family every year and at times that has overlapped with a shuttle launch and I have been sure to watch, just like I did for Skylab and Apollo.  It's an impressive thing to see  a rocket take off and they did what they could but it was clear for 25 of the 30 years that reusable tech was a dream and disposable rockets would have been more cost effective, as would robots

    I said this for 15 years.  Yes, sending people into space is nice but getting it funded by calling it science is unnecessary - exploring the universe is human curiosity so perhaps it should be funded that way instead of insisting it was the only way science will get done.   With the space shuttle retired, a lot of terrific work can be funded that NASA could not and would not fund because of space shuttle concerns.    If a robot gets lost, the Congressional hearings are a lot less messy.

    Comments

    Geez I couldn't agree more--in general--but it was your last paragraph that provked me to write. My peeve is the justification you see all the fime about the "mundane improvments to life on earth" that the space program is supposed to spin off. Most recently I saw a talking head on NASA TV trying to recycle this folklore. You hit the nail on the head: human space flight--which I'm hugely in favor of--is not science, it's just its own agenda, mostly about the human spirit. To hang gizmos and gadgets on it does no service and in fact discredits the whole funding appeal by giving it the stench of insincerity.