Thursday, 28 August 2003

The Space Programme That Never Was

Marcus Lindroos of Finland has produced a very concise yet detailed explanation of how we got to where we are now in Manned Space. He made two graphics (shown below) revealing what was planned, and what was funded, between 1980 and 2000.

What was Planned

What was planned

What was Funded

What was funded

I'm sure that a couple of 5 Gigawatt solar power sats would have helped the US get on-board the Kyoto agreement (not that that has much merit except symbolically). And reduced the ability of certain parties to fund terrorism.

Marcus also produced an (incomplete) series of slides showing how the Shuttle came to be, including some heartbreaking artists conceptions of things the way they could have been. He also gives hard numbers, planned performance characteristics, and explanations. I'll be quoting more of these in future posts, along with some commentary from a 2003+ perspective. In the meantime, go visit - and maybe we're not as technologically far away from a moonbase as you might think. Financially, Managerially and Politically is another matter.

I'll leave with one final pair of graphics showing how the Space Shuttle came to be such a very partial success. They come from a slide showing the cost trade-offs that were made way back in 1971.

Projected Cost of Development (and Technical Risk)

Alternate Space Shuttle Development Costs

Projected Cost Per Flight

Alternate Space Shuttle Costs Per Flight

The design we ended up with is the one on the far right - RAO BRB. By making the costs per flight so high, and the re-useability so low, it ensured that only a few flights would be made per year, not the dozens needed to prove and test the system in the 80's in time for a replacement in the 90's. And to ever make it even remotely cost-effective. Isn't Hindsight wonderful?

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