The era of the Space Shuttle has ended seven years ago. Private aerospace is growing extremely fast, in the next decades we expect a manned flight to Mars. So why go back to Shuttle again? Well, I think we still don’t realize all of the meaning of this project.
The first Shuttle space flight was on 1981. All across the country watched the live broadcast of the preparations and launch of Columbia. According to NASA, landing of STS-1 mission has watched more than 200,000 people. It was a global event.
But before this, during the test flights, the first test orbiter was named the Enterprise, in honor of USS Enterprise in Star Trek sci-fi series. It was extremely inspiring for young people around the world: just think about it, a spaceship from the future, big, which can lands from space and then fly in space again! It seemed that spaceports and interplanetary flights were a matter of the next few years.
But although there were plans for modifications of the Shuttle capable of reaching the Moon and Mars, they were never implemented. The shuttle was planned to be used in a very tight schedule in order to pay for its maintenance: to deliver satellites from orbit and back, to conduct research, to deliver astronauts from other countries to space. And truly, in the first years of Shuttle flights reigned real enthusiasm about a new era of space exploration. But everything changed after the Challenger accident when seven astronauts were killed, including Christa McAuliffe, “teacher in space”. Flights were suspended for two and a half years.
It is believed that Challenger disaster was caused, among other, by the insufficient development of the SRBs construct, caused by insufficient financing: as is known, the Space Shuttle was chosen as the most inexpensive among such projects as the lunar orbital station, manned mission to Mars, etc. But Shuttle exploitation has made its own adjustments in costs: for preparing each flight was spent several times more money than estimated previously, and preparation cost have reached $775,000,000 in 2010, due to increased precautionary measures after the Shuttle Columbia disaster. Eventually, the project significantly exceeded the settlement financing of the maintenance and was never able to pay off.
Obviously, the current level of technology still does not allow the creation of commercially successful spaceships from a sci-fi movies. In some sense, Space Shuttle has got far ahead its time. And I would like to hope that sometime in the future we will build fully reusable manned spacecrafts to explore other planets.