...it's only a four-astronaut crew, there's no back-up shuttle - rescue will be by Russian Soyuz if necessary, and just in case they've all been fitted with Soyuz-compatible spacesuits. It really is the end of the shuttle.
Space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station at 03:55 GMT this morning, marking its last departure from the orbiting outpost ahead of its return to terra firma on Wednesday. Endeavour seen from the ISS shortly after undocking. Pic: NASA TV Before waving a final goodbye, the venerable vehicle had a …
The program should have been abandoned decades ago. It's never fulfilled its design goals, was comprimised by USAF requirements that were never needed and has needlessly claimed lives due to known design flaws. The potential for thermal shielding failure was identified after STS-1, I read that John Young said that if he had known of the damage caused by thermal protection failure he would have ejected from the orbiter during the descent.
The original design called for the shuttle to be refurbed and reflown within two weeks of landing. The current record stands at just over eight.
The money could have been far better spent on a continued Apollo applications program. With further production runs of the Saturn V the white elephant of the ISS could have been finished in under 5 years - without the frequent, risky and costly servicing missions. It's not inconceivable that a reuseable re-entry vehicle like the X-15 using an S-IVb for orbital maneuvers could have been devoloped for a fraction of the cost as a continuation of the AAP.
The hubble repair mission stands out as a high point of the program. can't think of any more right now though.
Yes the design was flawed and the programme budget appetite strangled other space exploration.
But the programme lost more people on the ground (in cars) then on its shuttles. Another more flawed transport design not suited to today's environment ... and strangling the US economy even more acutely than the shuttle programme ever did.
Eliminating risk from cutting edge exploration will, in the end, severely limit exploration. In the end we are all dead anyway. To die expanding human knowledge is a better way than most of us achieve.
> Shuttle missions ending...
Well yes, but it's being retired at least partially because it's an ageing unsafe overpriced white elephant. At the same time we appear to be living in the early days of genuine commercial spaceflight. Surely happy days for SF fans?
> Scientific studies losing ground to populist hysteria...
Are things really worse now than they've always been? I really don't know the answer to that, but various forms of pigheaded mysticism have always been with us, so I wouldn't bet on it. Remember that in the original Scopes Monkey Trial Scopes was actually found guilty.
> A work of fiction?
Not just a work of fiction, but one of the worst works of fiction ever written. It's a noxious and embarrassing piece of fanservice, written to stroke the egos of SF fans. Niven started out so good, but he sunk so low... I blame Jerry Pournelle for eating his brain.
I don't think it's that bad a book, but yes I agree it was a fan-wank.
I <i>do</i> think we're in danger of descending into a new Ludditism, especially if the ultra-green culture gets its way. I don't have issues with conservation and green technology, but many of the culturally green seem to have a serious chip on their shoulder about technology and science. If that takes hold politically, expect to see a lot more homeopathic hospitals and an end to the exploration of the final frontier.