• Question: Will you ever reinstate the shuttle program?

    Asked by KiraL on 15 Nov 2020.
    • Photo: Zaria Serfontein

      Zaria Serfontein answered on 15 Nov 2020:

      I’m not sure we’ll ever go back to the shuttle program as everyone remembers it (it was very expensive and there was a lot of safety concerns surrounding it), but we should see aspects of the shuttle program in future launches! Private companies and government agencies alike are keen to get astronauts back to the Moon and further to Mars. There’s also a push to make launchers reusable, similarly to the shuttle, as SpaceX are now demonstrating. Companies like Reaction Engines are working on a horizontal take-off launch vehicle (similar to an aircraft), called Skylon, that will be able to take satellites into orbit and then return to Earth. So I don’t think we’ll see the shuttle program reinstated, but aspects of the program will definitely inspire future launches and launch vehicles.

    • Photo: Tris Warren

      Tris Warren answered on 16 Nov 2020:

      When the shuttle program shut down, NASA had to use Russian Soyuz rockets to get humans to the Internation Space Station (ISS). However, NASA wanted to be able to launch humans into space using American rockets, so they asked private companies to design and make rockets that could do this. One of the private companies that are now building rockets for NASA is called spaceX. They recently launched their second successful rocket with four astronauts to the ISS – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-54938444. SpaceX are now pretty famous as a company because they are owned by Elon Musk and they are making rockets that come back to land after they have been launched – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEr9cPpuAx8. This means the rockets can be re-used again, similar to the idea behind the shuttle, but the SpaceX rockets return landings look way cooler.