39th Anniversary of Lunar Landing, 40th Year of Losing Lunar Capability
One of the common refrains I've always been annoyed with has been "if we (America) can land a man on the moon, why can't we do ....".
The falsehood has been that we've retained the ability to travel to the moon, when we have not - it was simply too expensive to maintain.
Most don't know that we lost the ability BEFORE we actually made it to the moon. Read More...
The Saturn V launch vehicle, who's sole purpose was that mind numbing feat, ceased production as Apollo 8's journey around the moon became a reality. We really won the race with the Soviets well ahead of schedule, and they couldn't catch up, a year before we landed on the moon.
This began the cycle which is getting close to repeating as NASA begins the process of ending the Shuttle.
We quickly lost all the technology around the moon, because it was very costly to maintain, and the thought was it wasn't very good to maintain, better technology would be available by the time we went back. In reality, the technology was strikingly effective, and hard to improve upon without having been maintained all along. It may cost much more to replace than the massive investment to have made it in the first place.
Our technology crystal ball also let us down on the Shuttle - it was intended to usher in an era of lower cost access to space, upon which space station (read ISS) and eventual lunar and interplanetary exploration would become possible.
But it too was too costly, requiring engineering compromises to its safety, compromises that proved again too costly to undo to remedy after it claimed the lives of not one but two crews, destroying 2/5ths of the Shuttles.
We seem as a country never satisfied with our remarkable accomplishments, nor what to do with the people, equipment, and goals once we arrive at a destination. So much so we get caught in a loop, recreating what we earlier discarded, while discarding before finishing what we used before.
Ironically, we are supposedly doing this to save budget and exchange outmoded technology, rather than refine what we've already made enormous investment in. While writing off such investments just before they "turn a profit".
I am already hearing talk of the need to reduce cost again of the access to space. Wouldn't it be ironic if shortly after retiring the Shuttle, we again find the need to reinvent the same vehicle from scratch again?