PERSPECTIVE : Lift-Off! but Where Do We Go from Here; the Space Shuttle Discovery Eventually Made It Back to Earth. Just Steve Curtis Wonders Whether It's Time NASA Looked beyond the Ageing Spacecraft

The Birmingham Post (England), August 18, 2005 | Go to article overview

PERSPECTIVE : Lift-Off! but Where Do We Go from Here; the Space Shuttle Discovery Eventually Made It Back to Earth. Just Steve Curtis Wonders Whether It's Time NASA Looked beyond the Ageing Spacecraft


Byline: Steve Curtis

Since the dawn of aviation history, the aerospace industry has been a place for dreamers. Just about every rocket engineer in the world has at least one foot in the clouds and many of them are guilty of letting their imagination get the better of them. To put this statement in perspective, it's worth remembering that around the time of the recent Star Wars film release, an entire cohort of Nasa engineers admitted that the 1977 Star Wars film heavily influenced their careers.

This passion for the subject combined with several moments of phenomenal 20th century progress left many with the feeling that almost anything can be achieved. In the aerospace industry, if a miracle doesn't happen every 5 years we're in the middle of the next dark age.

American rocket scientists are still expecting the funding levels of the 1960s to return at any moment. They won't. Today, Nasa only receives a fraction of the resources it received during the 'space race'. Similarly the heady pace of change that saw men walking on the moon a mere 10 years after the first manned space flight is unlikely to be repeated. Progress takes time, sustained funding and - in the case of manned space flight - design engineers who are ready to send astronauts to their deaths.

Rocket scientists also have a habit of proposing fantastically ambitious space craft that later turn out to be unrealistic. The major space agencies of this world routinely waste hundreds of millions of dollars designing machines that will never fly. Once they realise they've made a mistake, they start on an entirely new design. By the time Nasa started cutting metal for the current space station they had already spent more money on funding a series of failed designs than the likely cost of actually building the station.

One group of space scientists who may have had a more sensible approach are the Russians. When the Russians launch a Soyuz manned space craft to the International Space Station they use a rocket launcher which is only a modified version of the rocket that sent Gagarin into orbit over 40 years ago!

Similarly their much ridiculed 'Mir' Space Station was a modified version of the earlier Salyut. It's true that Mir sometimes had problems but it's true also that they usually overcame them. Had the Americans built a second generation Skylab space station (which they knew how to build), they might have been far better served than building the entirely new International Space Station.

Which brings us back to Nasa and their latest proposal to phase out the space shuttle and replace it with a next generation machine. This may be a mistake.

Don't knock the space shuttle. If you look at the individual elements of the machine, much of it is actually perfectly good kit. Take the solid rocket boosters. In 114 launches 228 boosters have succeeded in over 99.5 per cent of cases. Similarly, no external tanks have ever structurally failed and even the much derided shuttle heat shield has protected the crew from the heat of re-entry in over 99 per cent of launches (one catastrophic failure in 114 launches.) Prior to the shuttle no space craft had ever re-entered the atmosphere more than once.

Problems? Well the heat shield requires much heavier maintenance than expected. The average number of damaged areas to the shuttle heat shield is about 150 per launch.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

PERSPECTIVE : Lift-Off! but Where Do We Go from Here; the Space Shuttle Discovery Eventually Made It Back to Earth. Just Steve Curtis Wonders Whether It's Time NASA Looked beyond the Ageing Spacecraft
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.