International Space Transportation System

The Root Cause

Brief History
The Root
ISTS Concepts
Ascent Roadmap

A Brief Historical Background

I studied what Gene Kranz and Chris Kraft had to say about the Apollo missions.  What I saw absolutely amazed me.  Apollo 11 had a computer overload shortly before landing on the moon, it was not a critical failure and the Eagle still landed.  Less than two weeks prior, the exact same error had been simulated, and mission control responded with an abort.  Had that not occurred, The Eagle would not have landed!  Apollo 12 was struck by lightning during ascent interfering with the electrical system; it was saved by a mission control call to switch to an almost completely forgotten backup system.  The only flight controller who knew about this system was reminded of it when some pad crew member in an earlier pad simulation had accidently elbowed a power supply switch.  Apollo 12 would have lit its escape rockets or wound up stranded on orbit without guidance and propulsion!  Apollo 13, it is well known, had an oxygen tank explode, causing a leak in the other oxygen tank.  The crew took refuge in the lunar module Aquarius and used its supplies to make it back home.  If that tank had exploded during launch, resulting flight stresses would likely had destroyed the launch vehicle in an Apollo version of Challenger.  If it had blown before they had left for the moonwhile still on parking orbit, they would not have been able to use the service module engine for deorbit.  They were not yet docked to Aquarius, and so had no lifeboat.  If it had exploded while the astronauts were on the moon, hapless Jack Swigert would have run out of oxygen in about 3 hours.  Aquarius would not be able to return to earth because it doesnt have enough rocket power and cannot reenter earth's atmosphere without burning up.  If the tank had exploded before Aquarius undocked while they were on orbit around the moon, Aquarius would have barely enough propellant to get Apollo 13 out of lunar orbit, and then would not have made it because of water or battery power shortages (the same speed as the PC+2 abort that they executed would not have been achieved.)  If it exploded as the astronauts were returning, they wouldnt have had Aquarius available to serve as lifeboat.  The point is this: If Apollo 13's failure happened anywhere else during its flight, the crew would have died.  Apollo 14 had a contaminated abort switch in its lander that caused the abort switch circuit to short during descent.  It shorted very early in the descent process, so it was possible for mission control to work around the problem with only a two hour delay in the landing.  Had that contaminated switch circuit shorted just before landing, the lander would have aborted its own landing without warning, endangering the crew.  While I'm not discounting the effort that mission control and the astronauts put into making these four missions turn out as well as they did, it would be extremely difficult to convince me that God was not involved. 

A Brief Technical Background

The space shuttle is our first attempt at producing a reusable launch vehicle.  We did it all wrong.  When Nixons OMB axed the Shuttles budget too low to make it fully reusable, we decided to expend the lower stage, rather than the upper stage.  This is one of the most unwise decisions I have ever seen, down there with smoking and suicide.  The Shuttle weighs about 4,200,000 lb on the pad, of that, 600,000 lb is hardware, 300,000 lb achieves orbital energy, 200,000 lb is reusable orbiter, and 50,000 lb is payload.  350,000 lb of hardware is essentially expended with every launch!  It would have been technically easier to make the lower stage reusable, and the result would have launched probably four or five times as much payload to orbit from the same facilities because the entire 200,000lb orbiter does not need to be painstakingly lifted to orbit.  As a result of this catastrophic decision combined with NASAs other problems (to be described later), "Even when adjusted for inflation, the cost of space launch in the United States today (1999) is actually higher than it was in 1972." (Entering Space by Robert Zubrin, 1998 Penquin/Putnam, pp. 26, emphasis in original.)  Examining cost data from confirms this.

A Brief Spiritual Background

Is this perhaps why?: 

For it is written (in Isaiah 29:14), I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.  Where is the wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the disputer of this world?  Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

- 1 Corinthians 1:19-20 (Emphasis as in original, meaning words not directly translated from the original Greek.)

I read this after studying those four Apollo missions.  My big question was, Why would God do such a thing to America's space program after four consecutive miracles?  But alas, as I have found in books on STS-33, the tragic Challenger explosion, it is not God's fault.

NASA's Administrator during the Apollo Era, James Webb, realized that an organization the size of NASA is not divorced from the society in which it lives and cannot turn its back on it.  Sooner or later, the society's problems will become the organization's problems ... he is well aware that American society is not what it was ten years before when NASA was founded. (No Downlink, pp. 91) Our first orbital astronaut is described as a practicing Christian (who) never neglected to emphasize that, without God, we human beings were nothing. (No Downlink, pp. 75.)  I, unfortunately, have the advantage over John Glenn of historical evidence that plainly spells this out for Americas space program.

What did we, as a western society, do wrong?  I'm counting myself in this as a Canadian: we had our Trudeaumania, along with its relaxation against behaviors the Bible describes as sinful; we also have our lack of wisdom showing in our tax structure and many other areas.  It must have been so hard for the NASA people of the early 1970's to watch (many used to work for A.V. Roe Canada, and went to NASA after the cancellation of the CF-105 Arrow in 1959.)  North American society basically started falling apart in the latter 1960's.  We are now faced with situations like pornography dominating entire sections of channel listings, many being relayed by geostationary satellites.  We have a 50% divorce rate, even among Christians.  We have businesses who cook their books and offer substandard product pushed by slick marketing, along with a public who is willing to accept it.  Already we have annual gay pride parades.  Coming up in Canada is the decriminalization of marijuana possession.  There is abortion: the murder of innocent children who have not yet had the chance to see the light of day.  ("For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy." Luke 1:44.)  The babe in this case was not Jesus, but John the Baptist, so there is little exceptionally different about this child from any other.  We have a surplus of parents wishing to adopt in Canada; it's not like these children wouldn't find a good home.  Also consider, would it be justified if some advanced alien race were to arrive and abort mankind because we haven't left the womb of our earth?

After Columbia Project 2003