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The Space Shuttle Program - The Post-apollo Vision, Space Shuttle Design And Development, Space Shuttle Flight Profile, Space Shuttle Program Organization

flights routine shuttles january

It will revolutionize transportation into near space, by routinizing it.

—President Richard Nixon, January 5, 1972

The space shuttle was supposed to make space travel a routine and frequent occurrence. Its conceivers envisioned shuttles regularly transporting humans and cargo back and forth between the Earth and a fleet of orbiting space stations. The shuttle was expected to be much cheaper than previous spacecraft, because it would be reusable. This would mean low operational and maintenance costs and a quick turnaround time between flights. It was predicted to bring in lots of money by hauling satellites into space for paying customers. The shuttle was going to be part of a massive transportation system and open up space the way the railroad opened up the frontier of the American West during the nineteenth century.

This vision never became a reality. Shuttle flights did not become routine, common, or frequent. Over the twenty-five-year period from 1981 through 2005, space shuttles flew only 114 times, averaging less than five flights per year. Two shuttles exploded, killing fourteen crewmembers. In addition to the human cost, the program experienced high operational and maintenance costs. Long turnaround times prevented the shuttle from flying frequently. However, the flights that took place did achieve many accomplishments. They put probes and observatories into space and were essential for building the International Space Station (ISS).

Nevertheless, many people believe that the United States has wasted too much time and money on a shuttle program that does not deliver what it promised. In January 2004 President George W. Bush announced his own vision for the nation's space program. It focuses on trips to the moon and Mars and calls for ending the shuttle program by 2010. The dream of routine access to space remains an elusive one.

The State of the Environment—An Overview - Historical Attitudes Toward The Environment, The Role Of Population In The Environmental Equation, The Impact Of Environmental Protection On The U.s. Economy [next] [back] The Space Shuttle Program - The Post-apollo Vision, Space Shuttle Design And Development, Space Shuttle Flight Profile, Space Shuttle Program Organization

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