Jay Manifold has a great (or infuriating - actually both) post up on the economics of the Space Shuttle and ISS. Skylab wasn't as pretty looking but it was way more cost effective.
While I'm making comparisons, consider that Skylab had a total habitable volume of 361 m3, and cost less than $100 million (see page 5); for comparison, the ISS has a habitable volume of 425 m3, for a cost approaching $100 billion. In the Encyclopedia Astronautica Skylab entry referenced above, Mark Wade concludes that a second Skylab/Apollo-Soyuz could have been launched in the mid-1970s, "an International Space Station, at a tenth of the cost and twenty years earlier." I'd say more like less than 1% the cost and thirty years earlier ...
NASA is being run as a Congressional district and aerospace industry jobs program. It has made itself irrelevant to the future of humanity in space. Will the latest tragedy be enough to convince Congress that a radical change in course is necessary?
The first step toward a more productive space program would be to announce the permanent grounding and retirement of the Space Shuttle. Relegate it to history and move on. Take its funding and use it to develop nuclear propulsion, a large variety of experimental space launch vehicles, research on biological problems with space travel (zero gravity effects, growing food, growing drugs, and even growing structures on Mars and the Moon), and nanotechnological research on materials fabrication for the special requirements for rocket engines, hypersonic ramjets and other demanding space applications.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2003 February 08 02:48 PM Airplanes and Spacecraft|