Sigh. So there are photos of Discovery being ferried over Washington, DC. The photos are being labelled “Shuttle’s last flight.”
Nah. Not true. Because before the Shuttle (and its brethren) are delivered to the museums, they’ve been cut up and rendered unserviceable. You can’t take a shuttle now, turn around and make it a flightworthy article.
We did the same thing with the jigs used to make the Saturn rocket when Congress approved the shuttle.
Why? So that we couldn’t make more Saturn rockets.
Cortez burnt his boats, we simply castrated our space program.
With Congressional approval, practically with Congressional mandate.
Werner von Braun proposed the original shuttle. It was proposed as a strictly manned vehicle, an adjunct to the Saturn I and V rocket fleet. The Saturns would the heavy-lifters while the shuttle would get people into orbit in a low-stress launch.
The space shuttle was always supposed to be the first experimental version of a permanent re-usable vehicle.
Instead, in order to get funding and Department of Defense backing, the shuttle was perverted into a crewed heavy-lift “truck.” Naturally, being designed by committee with two different goals, it failed at both.
And because it was touted as this “cheap, safe” access to orbit, no one was ever willing to discuss the follow-on — the vehicle built from the lessons learned in the design, development, and deployment of the shuttle.
So what have we got now? Nothing. We buy our “heavy lift” from either Europe or Russia. We buy our “manned lift” from Russia.
Every American should be ashamed.
We have squandered an invaluable lead in space exploration and research.
The argument that private enterprise will fill the void is wishful thinking. I recall Burt Rutan saying that there was an order of magnitude difference in difficulty between suborbital flight (like SpaceShip One) and Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).
We can hope that the people at SpaceX or some other private enterprise will bridge that gap successfully.
But right now we’ve got nada, zip, zilch — a national disgrace.