The Space Shuttle - Why Bother?
It's good to hear that the Shuttle landed safely today. However, I think people are starting to really question the usefulness of the Shuttle (and the ISS as well) or have questioned it for a long time. This article has a lot of interesting information on the Shuttle's history, but I find this quote at the end to sum things up nicely:
Over the past three years, while the manned program has been firing styrofoam out of cannons on the ground, unmanned NASA and ESA programs have been putting landers on Titan, shooting chunks of metal into an inbound comet, driving rovers around Mars and continuing to gather a variety of priceless observations from the many active unmanned orbital telescopes and space probes sprinkled through the Solar System. At the same time, the skeleton crew on the ISS has been fixing toilets, debugging laptops, changing batteries, and speaking to the occasional elementary school over ham radio.
I'm all for discovery and space exploration. But we as a nation need to come to grips with technology and realize that we can do more with probes than manned missions. Face it, to try and land a manned craft on Titan in this day and age is...well, impossible, or at least the cost of such a mission would be far too great. But we can do it with a probe, and if the probe crashes, well, that's a lot of money lost but at least we didn't lose a human life.
* Posted at 08.09.2005 09:45:32 AM CST | Link *