Posted September 14, 2009 12:03 PM
By David Todd
NASA has become famous in recent years for spending a lot of money on a space project and then scrapping it before it comes to fruition. In some cases this was the wrong choice. However in some cases it made the right call. It is the amount of money wasted that is the problem. For example some US$2 billion was wasted on the X-33 suborbital aerospace plane – the final death knell being a failure of its new composite fuel tank in a test. Before that US$1 billion was wasted on the NASP – National Aerospace Plane – a technology that was never going to work. Sadder loses were the Orbital Space Plane – a mini-shuttle that could have been the answer to NASA’s current space vehicle shortfall (some US$2 billion was spent on that). A further US$3 billion has been spent on Ares 1 with little to show except technical problems. There were other less expensive but still wasteful projects including rocket engines that were never built and projects investigating reusable vehicles. But as the White House considers whether to scrap the Ares I & V launch vehicle elements of its manned Project Constellation plans, those that remember those cost-cut-driven decisions of the past will be fretting about the future. But are they right this time?