Random thoughts and insights – always shaken, never stirred

Ground the Shuttles

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I’m a fan of space exploration. I think it a matter of huge, historical significance that we’ve walked on the moon, and the Saturn and Mars probes are tremendous achievements. Some understanding of my attitude can be seen in that I’m more of a Star Trek fan than Star Wars. I’d like to see spacecraft development resume.

That having been said, I also believe it’s time to ground the shuttles – permanently.

Many watched with pride when Discovery lifted off last week. I watched with irritation. The shuttles are outdated 1970s technology, flying far past their prime and with a failure rate that should be embarrassing but somehow doesn’t seem to be. A fine piece of commentary makes the point well:

When the program began a generation ago, the shuttles were supposed to make space travel routine, with weekly launches. As it happened, there have been only 114 flights over the last 24 years, a rate of less than five annually. Worse still, two of the first 113 ended in catastrophe, meaning that on any given mission, the shuttle has a 1-in-56 chance of not making it back in one piece.

By contrast, as an FAA official noted after the Columbia accident, the commercial aviation industry operated 11 million flights in 2000 without a single death. If airlines had the same accident rate as the shuttle program, he said, “we would lose 40 of those airplanes every day.”

Of course orbital flight is going to be more dangerous than commercial air travel, but this is ridiculous. The shuttles have served their purpose and need to be retired to a museum somewhere. If that means shutting down the International Space Station boondoggle, then so be it. Nothing is happening up there worth the lives of a shuttle crew.

It’s time to stop using antiquated 20th century technology in the 21st century. Meanwhile, the rest of the article above is worth your time.


Written by martinipundit

August 1, 2005 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Technology

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