Space the final frontier
The long nightmare of space exploration is nearly over. First launched in 1982 the go decider for the Shuttle program was Dick Nixon. It was supposed to be a space pickup, a DC3 for space. It was a brain dead decision from the start. The shuttle weighs some 239,8000 lbs., the biggest cost of exploring space is lifting mass into space. NASA is so concerned about weight that all astronauts must have an enema before launch. The Russian Soyuz capsule that will succeed the Shuttle as the sole means of supplying the space station first flew in 1967. The reusable part weighs 6000lbs. No matter how you run the numbers, every launch is putting 200,000lbs of useless mass into orbit. For comparison the Saturn V had a payload of 262,000 lbs. A shuttle launch costs $1.5 Billion, a Soyuz launch $80 million. The Ariane 5 lifts 39,000lbs for $120 million. There is no doubt the space shuttle program was a mistake if the goal was to lift mass into space. Stage two of this disaster was the mission for the space shuttle. The international space station will be complete in 2012, at a cost of $150 Billion or more. The shuttle was developed to service the space station and the space station exists as a destination for the shuttle. In excesses of $300 Billion has been spent on a project that really has no purpose other than saying we did it. Sure there is some science about living in space, but nothing that MIR could not/did not do. All the experiments could have been done by robots. And that is my bottom line; if the $300 Billion had been better allocated man would be far far farther into the final frontier. NASA has squandered 30 years feeding three dumb decisions; first the Shuttle, second the International Space station, third the manned colony on the moon. Fortunately Obama seems to be putting NASA back on a better glide path. NASA needs better tools to advance and that is where the focus should be in the short term. Without the space station and shuttle sucking up all the oxygen I look forward to big leaps forward.