Why the Space Shuttle was the wrong craft at the wrong time

When the Space Shuttle Columbia launched on its maiden voyage in 1981, it was seen as a groundbreaking achievement in space travel. However, according to Matthew H. Hersch’s book “Dark Star: A New History of the Space Shuttle,” the shuttle ultimately proved to be a costly failure. The book explores the shuttle’s 30-year lifespan, from its origins in the Cold War to its retirement in 2011. It reveals how political changes and vested interests hindered the shuttle’s original vision of advancing space exploration. Instead of focusing on scientific discovery, the shuttle became entangled in geopolitical reconnaissance and defense initiatives. Nixon’s support for the shuttle was driven by personal political benefits, not a genuine interest in space exploration. The shuttle’s design was compromised by conflicting objectives, leading to fatal flaws in its safety and reusability. Despite tragic accidents, the shuttle program continued for years, functioning as a “working monument to bad design.” The final shuttle mission in 2011 marked the end of the program, but its flaws and risks had been apparent for years. The shuttle’s high cost prevented its immediate discontinuation, exemplifying the sunk-cost fallacy.

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