To Near-Earth orbit… and beyond!

Orion CEV

NASA has announced some details of the new <quote>primary vehicle for human space exploration</quote>. And look, we’re back in the 1970s! I jest. But it does have a slighly retro feel to it. And while this isn’t a problem if it gets the job done, I can’t help but feel it’s a step backwards in human space exploration.

This is going to be a replacement, not a supplement, for the space shuttle fleet (well, according to some places, I haven’t been able to find that definitively written down). Okay, okay, so the Orion will be the interplanetary crew delivery vehicle. That’s fine. Better than fine, that’s brilliant. It’s about time we started getting back out into the neighbourhood.

But to replace one semi-re-usable low-earth-orbit vehicle with another, rather than develop a proper space plane, where it doesn’t cost half a billion dollars everytime to launch, seems to me to be… wrong. I’m sure there’s economic justification for a fully re-usable plane, but I want to post an objection based on the more spurious grounds of my own sense of aesthetics…

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2 Responses to To Near-Earth orbit… and beyond!

  1. Alun says:

    You’re assuming the high cost is a bad thing. It’s said the Space Shuttle got the nod from Nixon because it would employ more people, not because it was the best tool for the job. NASA’s prone to cut backs on the whims of the government. Perhaps Orion’s dependencies are a way of ensuring it doesn’t get cut.

  2. alexmack says:

    Good point. Like I said, I’m not sure that my objection is based on purely logical grounds… 🙂

    The counterside is that, economics notwithstanding, dropping a rocket booster every time is not very environmentally friendly – either for us down here, or the poor chaps in the shooting gallery that is the ISS. Not to mention the extraction of raw materials, etc etc…

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