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VISUAL "Shuttle to Capsule" comparison
I think that (now) the Space Shuttles are too old and too dangerous to fly, then, it's a VERY BAD idea to launch up to 19 Shuttles (with up to 130 astronauts!) in the next 5+ years to finish the ISS.
I think the Shuttle must be modifyed to fly crewless or must STOP to fly NOW, but, an idea 1000 TIMES WRONG is to abandon ALL researches of a new, little, safer and cheaper crew-Shuttle in the next 30+ years to build ONLY a few capsules and use them for a few missions with a few astronauts!
I've explained many times (on space forums and blogs) my opinion about this problem, but with scarce support... then, since "one image worth 1000 words", in this article I expose the same opinion, but in a VISUAL mode, with a comparison between the past Apollo, to-day's Shuttles and the future CEV.
The Apollo program was amazing, especially if we think to the '60 technology used, but, despite its giant funds, in 8 years the manned Apollo flights was 15 only with only 45 astronauts' flights and only 12 astronauts have had the opportunity to land & walk on the Moon for a few days in total!
Compared with the Apollo, the Space Shuttle is an INCREDIBLE PROGRESS with 114+ launches and 800+ astronauts' flights in 25 years, 1500+ mT of payloads, the Hubble, ISS assembly, etc.
The LOGICAL evolution (then a PROGRESS vs. the Shuttle) is a BETTER vehicle able to fly 1000+ times (at a low cost) and to send in space 8000+ astronauts, engineers, scientists and (maybe) tourists.
The Shuttle is old, very expensive and (now) very dangerous, but it was the first spaceplane, like a "Space-Concorde": old technology, high R&D costs, high unit price, high maintenance costs, very high tickets' price and very dangerous, then, retired. With to-day's technology and experience, we can build the "Space-Airbus": safe and reliable thanks to its up-to-date technology, reasonable R&D costs and unit price, low maintenance costs and very low cost tickets for space, maybe 1/50th of to-day cost!
But, unfortunately, the next (an ONLY) vehicle after the Shuttle will be (again!) a little capsule that will fly (ONLY) two dozens times in the next 20+ years (exactly... in the last 10 years of the next 20 years) with LESS than 90 astronauts' flights in total and only 48 astronauts will walk on the Moon!
I think this is a GIANT REGRESS vs. the (blamed!) Shuttle era and the "future in space" we hope!
50 years after the end of the Apollo program (made with '60 technology!) in 2025 we will see ONLY twice the missions on the Moon with ONLY twice the number of astronauts (on the Moon) per mission and an exploration time per mission that will be ONLY twice the exploration time of an Apollo mission!
Many VSE supporters say we will have dozens moon missions, 4+ missions per year, very long missions and moon colonies with lunar mining, etc., but that will be simply impossible with the funds available!
Also, the entire VSE plan may end before the first moon mission (if the vehicles and rockets will be not so safe and reliable) or after a few missions if the VSE funds will finish or if many missions will fail due to "sum of (little/big) delays" or if one or more crews will risk to die, thanks to the bad ESAS architecture!
About the orbital/ISS missions of the CEV... I think the figure I give in this article (12 orbital missions in 2014-2025) is very optimistic, because each orbital cargo/crew CEV launch will be too expensive if compared with ALL the cargo and crew vehicles that will be available in 2015-up like the Digital-Soyuz and ATV, Progress, a Japan cargo, Kliper, Shenzhou and (maybe) also some "private" (low cost) vehicles!
Particularly dramatic for the near future in space (after the Shuttle retirement) will be the lack of an heavy lifter able to launch, move (from orbit to orbit) and assemble big payloads like the Shuttle does!
The CLV will launch only 23 mT max of "dumb payload" (without any orbital navigation systems and engines nor any assembly tools) while, the big CaLV (with 125+ mT of "dumb" payload), will fly after 2018+ and the first 10+ CaLV will be used only for the moon missions then no big payloads to LEO!
To see a REAL progress in space, we can only hope that Russia, ESA and private companies will be able to build some little, cheap and safe "new Shuttles" (like the Kliper) but, if the rich, expert and historic space agencies of America, Russia and Europe will fail... in 2025 the new space-leader will be in China...
May 30 - 2006
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Copyright © 2006 Gaetano Marano - All rights reserved - The base images used for the drawings are © NASA