The Space Program was Negatively Influenced by Cold War Thinking
Rockets Are Not the Best Way to Get into Orbit
To put it simply: our current space program has lost its mojo―it is simply a refinement of what was done before. Few seem to be interested in re-examining what can be accomplished. Rather, we only seem interested in making small, low-risk improvements to previous technology—yesteryear’s, not tomorrow’s, or even today’s.
Our approach to going into space has barely changed since the initial design decisions were made in the 1950s and 1960s. The decisions, made during the Cold War era, were based on proving to the Russians that our rockets could reliably destroy Russian targets and thus provide a deterrent. The exploration of space was only a subterfuge. Our manned space program had to use the same propulsion system as our military system in order to prove to the Russians that our systems were effective.
The design decisions shaping the U.S. space program scarcely considered making the program practical, economical or low cost. It didn’t matter how much the rocket cost if it prevented a Russian nuclear bomb from reaching our shores. Why do we continue to make only small incremental improvements to a fundamentally non-practical launch system?
Rockets are not the only way to get into space. However, traditional rockets are the common item people imagine when they think of space travel. Rockets have been ingrained in our psyche as the method to get into space since the early days of science fiction.
“What if” we consider and examine all methods to get into LEO? Would we still select traditional rockets to get into space? Have science and technology advanced enough since we selected rockets in the 1950s to allow better choices than rockets today?
We owe it to our future to reexamine the choices made in the past and to determine if a new, more practical solution is possible. Let’s rethink space travel. The book “What If We Made Space Travel Practical?” dives into this topic at length.
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