One step closer...
...to a backward step in manned space flight.
The next step should have been a space craft that can take off, land, and take off again like a airplane.
Instead we are going back to capsules.
Space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station for the 12th and final time earlier today, as its swansong mission continues to run smoothly. Endeavour docked with the ISS. Pic: NASA TV Just prior to the 10:14 GMT mating, commander Scott Kelly guided the shuttle through a "backflip rotation" to allow …
"The next step should have been a space craft that can take off, land, and take off again like a airplane."
Funny you should say that.
The last *serious* effort (as in government funded *built* and tested) flight hardware was the DC-X
A "capsule" by your standards. You don't *have* to have wings for significant cross range and you don't *need* a runway if you land (and take off) vertically. But you *do* need to be comfortable with a sharp nose entry which so far *only* the USAF (or SDIO as the bit that funded DCX was) and their Russian equivalents were happy with this mode. They've done *hundreds* of tests on this.
It has been known since the late 1950s that "aircraft like" *operations* did not *need* an aircraft looking vehicle to achieve them. RE Douglas Aircraft and Philip Bono.
However more to your liking might be the USAF x37b project, while Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser is funded under CCdev and XCorp Aerospace's Lynx vehicle is designed to fly the 0-M3 Virgin Galactic mission with 1 passenger but 4 times a day and their next generation will be a 2 stage to orbit design.
I've missed out Virgin Galactic's vehicle as it is *designed* to go to M3 and *not* as a stepping stone. VG would be interested but are not *pushing* to go to orbit, apparently.
*All* have wings.
Winged vehicles look set to happen.
But NASA will *not* design them, have them operated *exclusively* for their use and should not need the 5000+ "standing army" to service them at a standing charge of c$1Bn/year *regardless* of how many launches it actually makes.
That seems like a *good* thing for people who want to *go* to space and don't want to fund a *very* small group of highly trained civil servants to go there instead.
True, they might have problems if that one goes wrong. I therefore suggest that they rename it Ranger 3, nickname the pilot 'Buck' and ensure any cockup cryogenically freezes the crew and sends the shuttle into an orbit which returns it to Earth (a little under *) 500 years later.
(* needs to return before the end of the 25th century)
"It's a bit of a let down to see that the ISS personel wear chinos and polo shirts."
The whole point of space stations is the idea of a "shirt sleeve" environment to *eliminate* wearing some kind of form fitting pressure suit 24/7.
Life is a *lot* simpler when you can get your routine supplies at a fairly normal clothing shop rather Playtex company (who IIRC did the original Blue shuttle coveralls with lots of velcro patches). This being NASA I suspect they are not *quite* the sort of things you might see the staff of (say) Xcorp wearing at a conference.
Thanks for the earlier article giving the Nasa video feed address. I used to watch the live feeds from Nasa back at the start of the US manned space and moon missions. There was a lot of hanging around back then too, they might be travelling at high speed but they do things very slowly.
Will the new era of private business based rocketry be quite so generous with the video I wonder. I hope so.
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