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30 years but no more

STS 1

I can’t forget the anniversary of the first flight of the american space shuttle, the one that triggered the beginning of the Energia-Buran program in 1976. But irony of the delay calendar it lifted off for the first time during the cosmonautic day, on April 12, 1981.

The STS program will not last longer than 30 years, it already got an additionnal payment for the last two flights, but there will be no more. This program is half a success or half a failure it depends from what side you see it.

Half a success because it allowed the United States to have an autonomous acces to space with a powerful multi-function launcher, a satellite launcher, a space station, and a space truck to bring back loads. Never a spacecraft could have sent into space as many astronauts as the shuttle did, and from so many different nationality. It’s modularity made it the perfect spacecraft to build the international space station and to accomplish a large range of missions.

But it is also half a failure because it hasn’t kept his promesses, such as allowing a cheap and reliable access to space. The launches were often delayed or put back because of a breakdown or an anomaly, the reconditioning costs of the boosters and the orbiter never stopped growing for years and unfortunately two accidents sullied its career (the destruction of Challenger during ascent in 1986 and the destruction of Columbia during the return from space in 2003).

Now the NASA will have to rely on the rockets of its former rival to send astronauts in the ISS and so until they have a new rocket and spacecraft, 2015 at the earliest ?

Of course we can’t forget that the the STS program lasted far longer and done so many things more than it’s Soviet counterpart the Energia-Buran which lasted 16 years (1976-1992/93) with only one maiden flight, but this is other story.

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