FSMspeed, Atlantis

May 14, 2010 - Reading time: 2 minutes

Historical note: this was a post that I started and never finished. That's why there are so many [things] that seem like they are incomplete.  I never posted this but the end of the Shuttle program was a big deal for me so I'm posting it now.

Atlantis is back in space, for its final voyage.  Every Shuttle mission these days seems to have more meaning, as we approach the end of the Shuttle program and the orbiters are flying their final missions.  Atlantis has had a short but distinguished career; it has helped us explore the solar system [Magellan], view the universe [Hubble], and [other thing].  It has served as a vehicle of diplomacy [Shuttle-Mir], and brought [x] modules and other ingredients for life to the International Space Station.

And soon, it will be decommissioned.

For someone in my generation, it is truly the end of an era.  Our parents may have Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, but we grew up with the Shuttle - the most complex and capable vehicle ever designed, and one whose vast capabilities no government or corporation has even considered duplicating.

Against this backdrop, a few of us are working on creating some sort of successor.  The shape and capabilities of that successor were decided for us by men who looked to the past for inspiration and economy.  The Constellation had lofty goals, but the vehicles chosen to reach those goals are lacking in many ways.

From a technical standpoint, the vehicles were never intended to be great.  Launched by rockets vaguely reminiscent of the Space Transportation System (why not just use the STS?), the Orion capsule and Altair lander were going to face a rougher ride to orbit of any spacecraft ever designed.  Then once in space, we find that NASA has reversed the trend of making larger, more comfortable vehicles, and instead made Orion a cramped, monolithic space with no privacy; no place for science; [no other thing].  The Altair lander would barely be bigger from the crew's perspective.  The "architecture" neglected science, crew health care systems, living quarters, privacy, and []; it was designed to re-use as much as possible from existing aircraft or the intellectual property of large [lockmart] and incompetent [honeywell] contractors in order to reduce development time and cost and just get something into space quickly.  Guess what: that wasn't going to happen; all of those pieces don't fit together cleanly and are not capable of doing what we need in a true vehicle of exploration.

[Rant!  Rant!  Rant!  I need to come back to this later]