SPACE - The NEXT FRONTIER

Last Updated: 18/06/97

I remember where I was when Armstrong made his first step, and even though the TV pictures came through upside down it seemed like the things I'd been reading about in SF novels might start coming true.

But things have fizzled out somewhat, apart from a few peaks on a downward path.

The Shuttle is a great thing, but I don't think it is the right thing. In some ways, it is a backward step.

The problem with the Shuttle is that the same vehicle is designed to launch, perform in space, and re-enter. This implies some contradictions.

I would like to see a system where what launches is set up for that purpose alone, and maybe has to be 'inserted' into orbit via some sort of assisted piggy-back ride. Once the vehicle is in space, it is viewed merely as cargo and building materials. The vehicles that operate in space would be built there and should be a cross between the old lunar LEM and a harbour tug-boat, i.e. ugly. squat but powerful. Such vehicles might even need to assist with getting whatever launches into orbit. What goes up, does NOT come down again. However, carried up as cargo would be re-entry pods, basically spheres with heat resistant covering like the base of the old Apollo command modules. Maybe for 4 or 6 persons, minimal fittings, their sole purpose would be to get their passengers safely into the atmosphere. The space-tug would actually insert the pod into its re-entry trajectory, the pod would have no engine. Everything should be cheap and functional.

A system must be able to make launches routine, maybe even at least one launch per day. The idea would be to start building in space, one or more Space Stations, and to proceed from there.

The Shuttle would still be handy to have around, for emergencies and for bringing big things back to Earth, but the vast bulk of the work should be done as cheaply as possible.

And as for money - I would like to see some sort of private company getting into the act, maybe selling shares to the public. Ownership of even a single share could give the holder some sort of right/preference when business/tourist/emigration travel is possible. If a space station is build by a private company, it might also avoid most political problems connected with territoriality.

A news program 28/10/96 referred to a proposed system being tried in the US where a Jumbo would tow a delta-wing vehicle to altitute, the wing would then be released to make powered glide (?) to ultra high altitude where it would release (fire ?) a satellite into orbit. The item referred to cheapness and re-useability - EXACTLY the things I would push for. I don't think this is quite what I had in mind, but it's a step in the right direction. Well within the grasp of a private organisation?

Check the following NASA Link