Add to Facebook
download .zip with all pictures
Its not good we canceled the program because they were old, its good we canceled the program because they hit zero of the project parameters. It was supposed to be entirely reusable with a turn around of a few weeks and each launch was to cost a fraction of what it ended up costing. It was an unsafe craft that took months to get in the air again and cost 4-5 times what a kitted rocket would have cost. It also lifts so much useless weight into orbit, every pound it needs for reentry and cargo lifting were useless lbs for pure science missions. After building and launching the first one into orbit we should have scrapped it but instead congress wanted to save face to the public and ordered a few more.
We should have scrapped it long ago and built a work and cargo platform which could be used from a capsule craft so the rocket can be configured to be used exactly as the mission parameters call for making the most efficient use of fuel. The Saturn-v program could have been expanded and continued and we would be reliably getting into orbit still. The only true advantage to the shuttle was the amount of cargo it could have brought back.
It did give us the technical knowledge to build a pure space plane which is the most efficient way to orbit. Use air breathing engines to get to a height where they either die out or you loose lift then switch to rockets to get to orbit. Air breathing engines use little fuel because the wings lift the plane with forward momentum rather than fighting gravity and require no oxidizer which saves weight. It was a technical marvel though.