Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Science Night - How to Land the Space Shuttle 

This kid's lecture about the landing of the Space Shuttle is quite good, I think. What was the Space Shuttle? Lots of people growing up in today's America know it only from their history books. What was so special about it?

The basic idea of the Space Shuttle was to make a spaceship that was reusable. With the Apollo program, everything was discarded after one flight. The space shuttle could be flown, landed, and refurbished for another flight. I think Elon Musk's rockets that can land back on the launch pad are really a better and more efficient re-usability. It cost an huge amount of money to refurbish a space shuttle. But there was something else about the Space Shuttle that was very unusual as space vehicles go:

It was enormous. You could put a Greyhound bus in the cargo bay. I don't know how they could have built the Space Station without it. Several years ago, when the Americans and Russians were having a spat of some kind, a Russian official threatened to close off access to the Space Station. It was laughable. Without the Space Shuttle there would be no Space Station. But not that laughable, because, since the end of the Shuttle program, the Americans have had to rent space on Russian space vehicles to get their astronauts to the Space Station.

After the Space Station was built, the Shuttle wasn't efficient. Sorta like driving a Sherman tank to go get some groceries. You just don't need anything that huge to transport a few astronauts. So the science that brought us the SpaceX transport vehicle is welcome and long overdue. I think it will eventually make the Americans the preferred transporter of astronauts.

Still, the science behind the Space Shuttle and how it flew is also fascinating. Do take 17 minutes of your time and watch this. You'll enjoy it.

Question of the day: Why is it harder to land an aircraft without an engine?



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