Sunday, 1 February 2004

A User Evaluation

This time, of the STS (Space Transportation System) known as the "Shuttle". From the ABC :
Story Musgrave, a veteran of six shuttle missions, says the spacecraft has too many flaws to be an acceptable risk.

The warnings come as NASA prepares to retire the shuttle to make way for technology to deliver on US President George W Bush's proposal that US astronauts establish a permanent base on the moon by 2015.

Dr Musgrave says the shuttle was hastily and poorly designed during the Cold War space race.

"What people don't understand is that you can't make this thing safe - it's the most dangerous vehicle ever contrived and it always was that dangerous," he said.

"But NASA didn't want it to be that dangerous, so they started telling themselves it wasn't and they started to believe themselves."
Remember, the Shuttles are 30 years old. Not the design, that's much older, the actual spacecraft themselves. Not many people drive cars built in the mid-70's, with the original parts. Fewer still drive cars designed in the 60's.

I happen to disagree in detail with Dr Musgrave : Objectively, the 5% failure rate of the Shuttle is about average for reliable space hardware, and it's far safer than any other US manned spacecraft (Apollo, Gemini, Mercury, X-15). And the Shuttle was neither poorly nor hastily designed, for the time and within the budgetary constraints. But then again, It's not my life on the line. And I agree that it's not good enough, cannot be made so, and needs mending with a new 'un.

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