Spaceship Like Discovery A Big Mistake
    2011-03-10 16:01:53      Web Editor: Chu

The space shuttle Discovery sits on the runway after landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, March 9, 2011. [Photo: Agencies]

"When a historian with some technical sense looks at this carefully, they would discover that it was a huge mistake. "

... ... ... ... 

Recognition, admiration and a noticeable feeling of regret are what people read from media reports concerning the final landing of the U.S. shuttle, Discovery, a legendary spaceship that will soon be decommissioned after 27 years of service.

But not all feedbacks have been positive.

In one case, the world's most-flown spaceship and the space program it represented have been called, "the biggest mistake in the U.S. space program that has cost the human race 40 years of progress." The remark comes from an expert.

"It is definitely the end of an era and an end we are happy to see come." Dr. Lee Valentine, executive vice president of Space Studies Institute, California, hailed the decommissioning of the Discovery and the end of an era in which astronauts rocketed from a launch pad for missions in low Earth orbit and then landed shuttles much like an airplane.

Dr. Lee Valentine said that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had chosen the shuttle design, which is extremely expensive and can only be partly re-used, costing the human race 40 years of progress. The design, according to Dr. Lee, is designed with a political compromise.

"The designer of the Saturn V knew that this was a mistake. They had prepared designs for fully reusable vehicles that could fly many times, much more cheaply than the space shuttle design that was eventually chosen, i.e. Discovery and its sister ships." Dr. Lee Valentine said.

Discovery is the first of NASA's three surviving shuttles to be retired this year, the other two being the Endeavour and Atlantis.

NASA is pulling out from the shuttle program, since it's under a presidential direction to operate beyond low-Earth orbit. The goal is to send astronauts to an asteroid and then Mars in the decades ahead. There is not enough money for NASA to achieve that and maintain the shuttle program at the same time. As a result, shuttles will stop flying this summer after 30 years.

Dr. Lee suggests the design of smaller, fully reusable and more economical spacecraft.

"In my town of Mojave, we have several companies building reusable spacecrafts and expect to fly to space next year with them, and fly not once or twice a year as the Discovery but fly multiple times a day." Dr. Lee Valentine said.

In fact, that is probably what NASA is thinking now, though 30 years later.

American astronauts will continue to be blasted into the space station on Russian capsules, until private companies can provide a taxi service to and from orbit. NASA expects to get another nine years out of the space station.

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