I don't know of any pilot who has never dreamed of going into space, the Shuttle program is a immense achievement of which the Americans should be justly proud. Its demise is part of the natural order of cutting edge technology, Concorde is another. Whilst we may grumble of its passing we should feel fortunate that the visionaries got their way for long enough for us to see, hear these magnificent wonders of engineering.
I only ever got to see a shuttle launch live on TV, I had always missed them for one reason or another, this particular one was Challenger! I never watched one again just in case.....
So good bye big bird, I shall miss you... BUT feel proud to have changed my life and many others. Who will step up to the plate now?
End of an error? Space shuttle’s promise of frequent flights, small costs didn't materialize
By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, July 5, 4:42 AM
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The space shuttle was sold to America as cheap, safe and reliable. It was none of those.
It cost $196 billion over 40 years, ended the lives of 14 astronauts and managed to make less than half the flights promised.
Yet despite all that, there were some big achievements that weren’t promised: major scientific advances, stunning photos of the cosmos, a high-flying vehicle of diplomacy that helped bring Cold War enemies closer, and something to brag about.
Former President George H.W. Bush, who oversaw the early flights, said the shuttle program “authored a truly inspiring chapter in the history of human exploration.”
NASA’s first space shuttle flight was in April 1981. The 135th and final launch is set for July 8. Once Atlantis lands at the end of a 12-day mission, it and the other two remaining shuttles are officially museum pieces — more expensive than any paintings.
America has done far more for far less. The total price tag for the program was more than twice the $90 billion NASA originally calculated.
The nation spent more on the space shuttle than the combined cost of soaring to the moon, creating the atom bomb, and digging the Panama Canal, according to an analysis by The Associated Press using figures from NASA and the Smithsonian Institution and adjusting for inflation.
Even its most ardent supporters concede that the shuttle program never lived up to its initial promise. The selling point when it was conceived four decades ago was that with weekly launches, getting into space would be relatively inexpensive and safe. That wasn’t the case.
“But there is no embarrassment in setting the bar impossibly high and then failing to clear it,” said former astronaut Duane Carey, who flew in 2002. “What matters is that we strived mightily to do so — and we did strive mightily. The main legacy left by the shuttle program is that of a magnificent failure.”
Of the five shuttles built, two were lost in fiery tragedies. The most shuttle flights taken in one year was nine — far from the promised 50.
The program also managed to make blasting into space seem everyday dull by going to the same place over and over again. Shuttles circled the planet 20,830 times, but went nowhere really new.
The shuttle’s epitaph is “we tried,” said Hans Mark, a former deputy NASA administrator who oversaw most of the first dozen launches.
Six years ago, then-NASA chief Michael Griffin even called the shuttle program a mistake.
But as a mistake it is one that paid off in wildly unexpected ways that weren’t about money and reliability.
“The discoveries it enabled, the international cooperation it fostered and the knowledge it gained — often at great human cost — has also contributed in countless, important ways to humanity and our common progress,” President Bush wrote The Associated Press in an email. Bush oversaw the program’s early days as vice president, a job that has by tradition supervised NASA.
There are the magnificent photos from the Hubble Space Telescope, which helped pinpoint the age of the universe and demonstrated the existence of mysterious dark energy; the ongoing labwork on the International Space Station; a multitude of satellites for everything from spying to climate change; and spacecraft that explore the solar system. All owe their existence to the space shuttle.
The Hubble was not just launched from the shuttle — it was repaired and upgraded five times by shuttle astronauts. They also captured and fixed satellites in orbit.
Earlier this year, shuttle astronauts installed a $2 billion particle physics experiment on the space station that may find evidence of dark matter and better explain aspects of how the universe was formed. Add the intangibles of near continuous American presence in space over three decades and a high-flying venue for both international diplomacy and school science lessons.
Like a real life version of the television show “Star Trek,” the shuttle was a United Nations in space, carrying representatives of 16 other countries. The U.S. and Russia became close partners in space and Russian rocket scientists after the breakup of the Soviet Union found new employment. NASA’s current boss said all that is not something that should be ignored. The shuttle also diversified space to make it seem more like Earth, sending the first American woman, the first African-American and teachers, lawmakers and even a former migrant farmworker into orbit.
“The space shuttle program reaffirmed, once again, American dominance in space and laid the foundation for the United States to continue its long-standing leadership beyond our home planet,” NASA Administrator and former shuttle commander Charles Bolden wrote in an email. “The shuttle program evolved over its lifetime and gave us many firsts and many proud national moments, along with painful lessons.”
University of Colorado science policy professor Roger Pielke Jr., who studies shuttle costs and policies, said there are probably other ways the country could have spent several billion dollars a year on a human space program and gotten more.
Launching like a rocket and landing like an airplane, the shuttle was the ultimate hybrid. It acts both as a space taxi, carrying astronauts, and has the muscle of a long-distance trucker, hauling heavy machinery. That versatility translated into higher costs.
When spaceships carry people, extra safety requirements add hefty expenses. Rockets that haul big pieces of equipment — like station segments or a giant telescope — require more power and fuel, which means more cost. The shuttle has both of those problems that escalate the price.
When the shuttle succeeded, it did so in a spectacular way. But its failures were also large and tragic.
Seven astronauts perished when Challenger exploded about a minute after launch in 1986 and seven more died when Columbia burned up as it returned to Earth in 2003. One out of every 67 flights ended in death — a fatality rate that would make the most ardent daredevil cringe.
Based on deaths per million miles traveled, the space shuttle is 138 times riskier than a passenger jet.
Former astronaut and past NASA associate administrator Scott Horowitz said, “While the shuttle is the most magnificent engineering feat, its complexity and the naïve belief that it would be as safe as an airliner was its Achilles heel.”
One problem is that the shuttle was a compromise from start to finish, said Howard McCurdy, a professor at American University and author of several books on the space agency. The shuttle had to satisfy both NASA and the Department of Defense, which dictated the exact shape of its wings and the size of its payload bay, said Roger Launius, senior curator at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
The concept behind it was based on a three-step space plan, ultimately ending on Mars, said George Mueller, the former top official who is credited as the father of the space shuttle program. To get to Mars, NASA needed a space station circling Earth as a jumping-off point. To get to the space station, NASA wanted a completely reusable space shuttle.
In 1971, President Nixon gave NASA only the shuttle. It had no place to go. The space station wasn’t built until 1998.
Worst of all, Mueller said, was that the plan to make every part of the shuttle fully reusable was dropped. Budget cuts ordered by the Nixon White House meant that the fuel tank would be jettisoned with each flight and the boosters would fall into the ocean after launch and have to be retrieved and refurbished extensively.
Those changes made to save upfront money, while they sound small, meant adding incredible expense to every flight, Mueller said in an interview.
The shuttle will likely go down in history as an anomaly of America’s space program. The spacecraft before it were disposable capsules, like Apollo. And the designs for machines of the near future are also for the most part disposable capsules. That suggests that the 30 years of reusable shuttles that landed like airplanes were a diversion from the natural evolution of rocketry, said McCurdy.
It may be an anomaly, but astronauts call it an engineering marvel in both versatility and complexity. John Glenn, who flew in a Mercury capsule as well as the shuttle, called it “the perfect vehicle for its time.”
He said like any pilot he’d prefer to fly the shuttle and called it a much smoother ride. But he said he understands why the future looks more like his Mercury capsules.
“As far as expense, simplification and cutting costs, the capsule is by far cheaper,” the 89-year-old former senator said in a telephone interview from his Columbus, Ohio, office on Friday.
“The shuttle is an amazing piece of machinery,” astronaut Stan Love said. “It blows away anything that can fly now or in the next 30 years.”
However, when it comes to fulfilling the promise made four decades ago, Love retells a joke heard often around NASA: The space shuttle was supposed to be cheap, safe and turn spaceflight into something so routine it would be boring. One out of three ain’t bad.
I think this is a cracking idea, lets hope the fine fellows at Gatwick see this as a Green light and is worth copying without the usual gilt edging!
French private instrument rating officially announced
France’s ICAO-compliant Private Pilot Instrument Rating, first revealed in the May enews of IAOPA Europe, has been formally announced at the Paris Air Show by AOPA France, the Direction générale de l’Aviation civile (DGAC) and the French Aero Clubs Federation (FFA). The new IR, for which only a single written examination on pertinent topics is required, means that French pilots can obtain the benefits and protection of an IR without going through the nonsensical theoretical knowledge requirements which have hitherto made European IRs unobtainable for 98 percent of private pilots. Holders of FAA IRs will be able to convert them to French IRs easily and cheaply. While the new IR will be valid only in France, IAOPA is pressing for bilateral agreements on recognition from other European countries. If enough countries recognise and adopt a French-style IR it may be possible to head off EASA’s plans on instrument flying, which are unlikely to improve on the current situation. IAOPA Senior Vice President Martin Robinson has written to the UK Civil Aviation Authority with details of the new rating.
The French IR was outlined to IAOPA by Emmanuel Davidson of AOPA France at the Regional Meeting of IAOPA Europe in Friedrichshafen in April. The credit, he said, was mostly due to M Patrick Gandil, Director General of the DGAC, a private pilot who had been unable to take time out to study for the JAA IR exams. M Gandil travelled to the USA in May to look at the FAA IR and flew with Bruce Landsberg, head of the AOPA Foundation.
The practical flying training for the French IR exceeds the requirements of ICAO; the major change is in the theoretical knowledge requirements. M Davidson says: “The written exams for private pilots is centered on the subjects that are pertinent to the conduct of IFR flights in single or twin engine pistons up to FL195. There will be no questions about the hydraulic systems of airliners or the calculation of Mach numbers, only subjects relevant to what pilots needs to know.”
In France, fewer than three percent of private pilots hold an Instrument Rating – in the UK, the figure is around one percent. A joint study by AOPA and FFA showed that more than 3,000 French pilots would like to train for an IR(A) in the next 18 months if they could be trained in a manner resembling the one used by the FAA.
AOPA France identified the three reasons for the low uptake of European IRs as:
*JAR-FCL rules assume that only commercial pilots could be interested in an Instrument Rating, and the IR was made part of the professional training. It takes an average of one year of study to be able to take the written exams, with most students electing to take ATP writtens instead of IR exams, as they are easier.
*The student must enroll in a professional flight training school to study for the written exam and the flight training
*The total cost of an IR exceeds €20,000.
“This means that an Instrument Rating is nearly impossible to get for a pilot that has a job and a family,” M Davidson says.
The new IR will allow the pilot to fly on instruments to the same minimums as JAA IR holders. It allows French PPL holders to fly IFR on French registered airplanes in French airspace, and there is provision for FAA IR holders to validate their US IR on their French license – if they have 100 hours on instruments (including sim time) they simply need to fly a ‘skills test’ at an approved FTO.
The theoretical knowledge exam calls for the student to answer 150 questions on air law, radio comms, IFR-related human factors, instrumentation and radio navigation, flight planning, flight following, and meteorology. While an accredited FTO must be in charge of the training, pilots can do the flying in their own aircraft, or in an aero club plane, which further drives down costs.
The first French candidates for the new rating should be taking their written and practical exams as early as September. The way is open for other European countries to accept the French rating, given that it is ICAO-compliant, by making an agreement with France under which French rated pilots could fly into other countries. M Davidson says: “If enough European countries accept the French rating, EASA could decide to adopt a system that is already functional and has been proven as a functioning alternative to its own plans.
“AOPA France wishes to recognise the enormous help of M Patrick Gandil, M Maxime Coffin, head of the mission for General Aviation at the DGAC, M Jean-Yves Pieri of the French DGAC, Françoise Horiot, Président of Gipag, the union of French aviation professionals and FTOs, and Jean-Michel Ozoux, President of the French Federation of Aero Clubs.”