I truly am sad to see the space shuttle go. It started out with so much promise, watching those fancy shuttles launch in grade school! It turned into a bit of a travesty though with around 130 launches and two complete failures; it never went beyond an experimental space craft.
Going back to the Saturn rocket would be pretty cool. I’d heard a rumor though that Congress, in order to press upon the space agency to use the Shuttle exclusively, mandated that the tooling used to create the Saturn series of rockets be destroyed. The truth looks to be more boring since it looks like NASA didn’t readily need the tooling for anything, it misplaced, scrapped, or otherwise lost the capacity to build the giant rockets.
In anticipation of the demise of the shuttle though, smarter minds developed the Delta IV rocket. The Delta IV Heavy is a beast of a machine that (at least on Wikipedia paper) is more than a match for the orbiting capacity of the Shuttle. Although the Delta IV scales down nicely for more affordable launches, the ‘Heavy’ is the current limit and a poor match for the Saturn-like rockets and would be unable to get a man even half of the way to the moon.
So the next time someone needs a justification for their pie-in-the-sky idea and they say “if we can put a man on the moon”, politely point out that in fact, we cannot.
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