The Corner

6 False Lessons of the Space Shuttle

Our friend Rand Simberg has an excellent piece over at Popular Mechanics. I liked lesson six in particular:

6: The Ultimate False Lesson: That the Space Shuttle Proved Anything at All

To draw any firm lessons at all from the space shuttle by itself is a fundamental flaw in logic; it is called the fallacy of hasty generalization. Simply, the fallacy is extrapolating to some inductive conclusion from insufficient data. And in this case, there is a single data point: the shuttle.

We can learn from history, but we have to grab a much bigger bite of it than any one example. If we consider the entire history of U.S. human spaceflight, there is a useful lesson to be learned. That is: What we are doing in space is too important to leave to a single monopoly system, developed and run by a government agency. Twice in the past three decades the shuttle was shut down for years, leaving us without the capability of getting into space because there was no alternative, or competition. The Space Launch System that NASA is now planning to build to Congressional specifications (without sufficient funding or a stated mission) will suffer from the same problem. It’ s time to open the entire national space transportation infrastructure to competition, to give us robust, redundant capabilities‚ and stop looking for the next space shuttle.


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