Sexappeal, the space shuttle, and end of an era
There are many that have a romantic view of NASA and the space shuttle.
Many don’t understand that the space shuttle was a costly mistake.
There is a myth that the space shuttle was a cost effective method into space. The decades old myth kept the space shuttle program alive. The Saturn V program could care larger payloads, higher, for less cost. In today’s dollars, Saturn V low earth orbit (LEO) cost is about $4K US dollars per-pound, compared to the roughly $18K per-pound for the shuttle. (Insane that the US would pay 4x times the cost.) NASA could have done twice as much with half the cost with a single Saturn V launch every year for the past 30 years.
The space shuttle also has limited mission scope. The shuttle was originally developed for LEO orbit activity. The shuttle could never take people to the moon, or really be effective for geocentric orbit missions.
While the Saturn V never had a failure, the shuttle had several catastrophic failures. There was a 4% chance of failure on every shuttle mission. NASA knew after Challenger that there would be another disaster the shuttle program continued. Over a decade later there was Columbia tragedy.
The entire concept of Space Station could never be achieved (material research in micro-gravity). There were people in Space Station screwing up the micro-gravity; hence the material research could not be accomplished as planned. (NASA knew this in the early 90’s and went ahead with the program anyway, wasting hundreds of billions of dollars.)
Space shuttle & Space Station are examples of a misinformed public. There are many ex-NASA engineers and scientists that complain about the wasted resources that could have gone toward better scientific objectives.
The Bush administration took the waste to an entire new level with the Man on Mars concept. Scientists & Engineers were so outraged by the waste, that for the first time they wrote a letter supporting the opposing candidate in presidential campaign in 2004.
* The space shuttle was sold on sexappeal rather than practicality. Many times sexappeal is what sells product, something that our marketing team keeps telling development.
* NASA management hid the facts about the issues and limitations from congress and public. I’ve seen many software developers do the same thing with communicating with management or customers.
Bottom line, not all that glitters is gold