We never should have mothballed the Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle was and remains the most capable flying machine ever conceived, built and operated. We learned much from the thirty years of Shuttle flights, and in my opinion, we should still be flying them. Shuttle carried a crew of seven, plus nearly sixty thousand pounds of payload to low earth orbit. After transforming from a rocket into an orbital research or construction platform, it entered the atmosphere and landed on a conventional runway at the end of its mission. After around one hundred days of processing, it was ready to fly again.

Nothing like this had ever been proposed before, let alone actually built or operated. Nothing has replaced it since. We gave up on this wonderful machine, because it was deemed too risky and expensive. But we knew about the risks going in. As for cost, take a look at the astronomical costs of current space vehicle programs and tell me that Shuttle was too expensive to continue to operate.

The risk of flying on the shuttle was always present, but it was not something that ever made me consider not getting into the vehicle. In order to do anything worthwhile, one must take calculated risks. I thought about the risks as I waited for T-0, naturally, but didn’t dwell on them.

This is the way I have always felt. I still do