This is good news.
For its next generation of space vehicles, NASA has decided to abandon the design principles that went into the aging space shuttle, agency officials and private experts say.
Instead, they say, the new vehicles will rearrange the shuttle’s components into a safer, more powerful family of traditional rockets.
The plan would separate the jobs of hauling people and cargo into orbit and would put the payloads on top of the rockets – as far as possible from the dangers of firing engines and falling debris, which were responsible for the accidents that destroyed the shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.
I’ve always admired the reliability of the much cheaper Russian Soyuz/Progress rockets. They seem to have several advantages over the American shuttles:
- They have been continuously refined over the years from what works, rather than created from whole cloth.
- They don’t over-emphasize re-usability.
- They don’t try to do too much at once (i.e. simultaneous cargo and human transport).