Poor Shuttle return

Peter Johnson takes me to task (Flight International, 19-25 October) for comparing apples with oranges when I compare Burt Rutan with NASA. It is true that Rutan is following in the footsteps of earlier NASA operations such as Project Mercury and that the information gained has enabled him to design with a lot a fewer unknowns in the physical environment.

Unfortunately, NASA has not succeeded with the Space Shuttle, for all the billions of dollars spent -- it is grounded after a second tragedy and has been replaced by Russian technology that dates from the 1960s. It has also been reported that NASA and the US Department of Defence have already approached Rutan to carry various experiments on SpaceShipOne - if it is so useful and easy to build, why didn't NASA build one out of the petty cash left over from the Shuttle programme? A cynic, or a US taxpayer, might conclude that the US manned space programme since 1975 has been a giant income stream for large aerospace companies, but has given a poor return for the money invested.



Source: Flight International