Apollo 18: There's a reason why we never went back Feb 23, 2011 18:31:08 GMT -4
Post by ka9q on Feb 23, 2011 18:31:08 GMT -4
Unfortunately the shuttle came through as slow, expensive and unsafe. That combination is not disallowed.
Maybe the rules could be augmented with a fourth entry: "4. Reusable". The irony was that this was supposed to make the shuttle cheap, but it did precisely the opposite. When you plan on reusing a vehicle many times instead of expending one on every mission, that means you can't afford to lose it. If you can't afford to lose it, then the safety rules get very onerous and expensive to follow. Sadly, they still didn't provide much of an increase in safety.
I think NASA lost sight of the most important factor in providing safe space transportation at a reasonable cost: experience. Everything else, including the reusability of specific components, may or may not serve those goals but you won't know without experience. We stopped flying humans into space for almost six years between ASTP and STS-1, and there hadn't been a flight for nearly two years between Skylab-4 and ASTP. NASA lost a lot of momentum during those periods and a lot of experienced people retired.
You've got to keep a reasonable pace going, with overlapping projects so that experienced people will feel like they have a future if they stay.
I fear NASA is about to enter an even worse period. At least they had the shuttle program to keep people busy through the late 1970s. Now we have nothing even on the books.