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Launchbox PoD 12: Why the Space Shuttle looked the way it looked


Jabs First Brexit
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The Space Shuttle is probably the biggest case of disconnect between public perceptions/image and reality, maybe not just in space but any kind of technology. Even the 2 disasters didn't seem to spoil this - public reaction seemed to focus on how NASA had mishandled the missions of this clearly supremely advanced and perfect piece of technology, a bit like 'the king's evil advisors'.


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Very well said. Another weird thing to add to all those "weird shuttle related things" I mentionned there.
I mean, the NRO / KH-9 connection and also the even weirder Soviet mis-understanding of the Shuttle economics.
Both silly things being related through the Vandenberg SLC-6 launch complex.

If I were to summarize that thing further, it would be in the shape of some kind of bizarre chatting between NASA and the US military, with the Soviets coming late into the conversation, and in full Cosmo Kramer mode. Yeah, that would be the thing...:eek::eek::eek::LOL::LOL::LOL::LOL:o_Oo_Oo_Oo_Oo_Oo_Oo_Oo_Oo_O

The Seinfeld space policy. With NASA as Jerry, and the US military being either George or Elaine. The Soviets being obviously Kosmo Kramer (Kosmo being perfect for Soviet / Russian space).:ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:


NASA "we need the military satellites to fill the payload bay"

The US military "Sure, why not ?
but we request
- a huge payload bay for KH-9
- reuse of the half-finished MOL pad
- because KH-9 has to go into polar orbit
- and we also want a delta wing to return Vandenberg after a single orbit"

NASA "dang. Well, ok, look, here is the Shuttle as you requested it. Now you help us funding it, and getting through Congress and OMB, because they are making our lives a misery..."

The US military "hmmm, what ? ah, yes, that Shuttle thing, oh, well, we don't intend to launch the KH-9 with it, Titan III is fine, but thank you for the effort nonetheless, and goodbye."

The Soviets "wait, what's that thing with Vandenberg ? dang, the Shuttle is a nuclear bomber to incinerate the Politburo in a decapitation strike"

Seriously, just by reading that, it sounds like bad sci-fi. Badly written, somewhat disjointed.
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public reaction seemed to focus on how NASA had mishandled the missions of this clearly supremely advanced and perfect piece of technology
Fact is that NASA was to blame, if only for that infamous phrase by Larry Mulloy to the worried Thiokol engineers

"By God Thiokol, should I launch this shuttle in April ?" This is probably the exact moment (some hours before the Challenger disaster, and put into the public spotlight by the Roger commission weeks later) when NASA lost its credibility, and still has not fully recovered it (well, not the ENTIRE NASA, rather the Shuttle and more generally, the US human spaceflight program)

The entire Shuttle story is a tragic waste of 40 years and hundred thousand billion of dollars. Having read avidly since 2008 i can tell you there are many very serious space historians that are tempted by an alt-history of the "path not taken" in 1971 - John Logsdon, Roger Launius, Tom Frieling, Dwayne A. Day, David Portree... most of them agree the Shuttle was the wrong way.
In turn this make "Eyes turned skywards" and "Right side up" all the more important and interesting.

Then it depends from the POD to be picked, notably the year. Basically Apollo was up and running by 1964 to meet JFK deadline - yet the Shuttle only come in 1972. So there are 8 complete years during which NASA was completely unable to come with a viable "past Armstrong / past JFK deadline" plan and future. The best known "tentative plans that went nowhere" where AAP and STG, but there were countless other atempts, minor or major plans that equally led nowhere.
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