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NASA budget as percent of total federal budget, based on a figure originally appearing in the Augustine Report 12 in 1990, and using data from NASA History office. 

NASA budget as percent of total federal budget, based on a figure originally appearing in the Augustine Report 12 in 1990, and using data from NASA History office. 

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The two Space Shuttle tragedies, Challenger and Columbia, have led to many papers on case studies on engineering ethics. The Challenger disaster in particular is often discussed due to the infamous teleconference that took place the night before the launch in which some engineers tried to postpone the launch. However, the space shuttle program i...

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... for NASA to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade, and congress approved the funding for the moon mission (see Figure 1 for historical NASA funding levels). In 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and the last manned lunar mission was Apollo 17 in 1972. As can be seen in Figure 1, even before the end of the manned moon missions in 1972, NASA’s budget was being pared down. At the same time, NASA was developing plans for post-Apollo missions, including plans for space stations in orbit and on the moon. These space stations would require a “space shuttle” to service them. After much negotiation, NASA finally gained approval from the Nixon administration to build the Space Shuttle, but not the space station. Further, there were no remaining Saturn V rockets to lift the major components for a proposed space station into orbit. (A modified Saturn V rocket had put Skylab into orbit in 1973). The space shuttle program was approved in 1972 with a budget of a $5.5 billion and a goal of completion in 1978, 6 years later. The first launch was not actually achieved until 1981, but the total cost overrun was only 15%, which is pretty good by government standards where 40% of NASA Space Programs had cost overruns of 100% or more, and some projects have cost overruns up to 400%. 13 While the space shuttle program was approved, there was not sufficient funding for a space station. So now what would a shuttle do? NASA still had to justify the shuttle to congress to get funding for the project. NASA’s ambitious plan for the Shuttle included launching all government satellites, including those from the department of defense, and commercial satellites, as well as NASA’s own satellites and other missions. Also, to garner additional political support for the space shuttle, NASA sought partnership with the Air Force. The Air Force’s requirements resulted in some design changes for the space shuttle, including larger wings to increase the cross-range landing capabilities, a larger cargo bay, and the addition of a second launch facility at Vandenberg Air Force base in California for classified launches. Early NASA space shuttle plans called for a two-stage launch to orbit vehicle. 9 This was not possible with the funding and technology available at the time. As a result two additional booster rockets had to be added to the design in order to actually get the space shuttle to orbit. As noted in the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report, “These sometimes-competing requirements resulted in a compromise vehicle that was less than optimal for manned flights.” 1 In a 1982 interview, a range safety officer stated, “the space shuttle gives the best configuration for a large explosion.” 14 In 2005, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said of the shuttle, “It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible,” and that the shuttle was “inherently flawed.” “When combined, commercial, scientific, and national security payloads would require 50 Space Shuttle missions per year. This was enough to justify – at least on paper – investing in the Shuttle.” 1 NASA was so confident in its ability to achieve routine access to space through the shuttle that it planned to phase out of expendable launch vehicles (ELV’s) such as the Atlas, Titan, and Delta rockets. In reality, NASA only achieved 135 shuttle launches over the duration of the program (1981-2011), an average of 4.5 flights per year, an order of magnitude less than what was planned, and after the Challenger disaster of 1986, ELV production was rapidly resumed. The space shuttle orbiters were built in Palmdale, CA. The orbiters ended up costing $1+ billion each. The flight of Columbia in 1981 with two test pilots aboard was the first U.S. space flight since the last Apollo mission in 1975 (which was the Apollo-Soyuz test project). After the fourth flight in June 1982, the Agency declared the Shuttle system “operational,” meaning that the spacecraft and propulsion system had passed their flight tests, and could carry the full crew of 7 astronauts. The final space shuttle mission, STS-135, ended July 21, 2011 when Atlantis landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The complete roster of orbiter vehicles ...
Context 2
... for NASA to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade, and congress approved the funding for the moon mission (see Figure 1 for historical NASA funding levels). In 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and the last manned lunar mission was Apollo 17 in 1972. As can be seen in Figure 1, even before the end of the manned moon missions in 1972, NASA’s budget was being pared down. At the same time, NASA was developing plans for post-Apollo missions, including plans for space stations in orbit and on the moon. These space stations would require a “space shuttle” to service them. After much negotiation, NASA finally gained approval from the Nixon administration to build the Space Shuttle, but not the space station. Further, there were no remaining Saturn V rockets to lift the major components for a proposed space station into orbit. (A modified Saturn V rocket had put Skylab into orbit in 1973). The space shuttle program was approved in 1972 with a budget of a $5.5 billion and a goal of completion in 1978, 6 years later. The first launch was not actually achieved until 1981, but the total cost overrun was only 15%, which is pretty good by government standards where 40% of NASA Space Programs had cost overruns of 100% or more, and some projects have cost overruns up to 400%. 13 While the space shuttle program was approved, there was not sufficient funding for a space station. So now what would a shuttle do? NASA still had to justify the shuttle to congress to get funding for the project. NASA’s ambitious plan for the Shuttle included launching all government satellites, including those from the department of defense, and commercial satellites, as well as NASA’s own satellites and other missions. Also, to garner additional political support for the space shuttle, NASA sought partnership with the Air Force. The Air Force’s requirements resulted in some design changes for the space shuttle, including larger wings to increase the cross-range landing capabilities, a larger cargo bay, and the addition of a second launch facility at Vandenberg Air Force base in California for classified launches. Early NASA space shuttle plans called for a two-stage launch to orbit vehicle. 9 This was not possible with the funding and technology available at the time. As a result two additional booster rockets had to be added to the design in order to actually get the space shuttle to orbit. As noted in the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report, “These sometimes-competing requirements resulted in a compromise vehicle that was less than optimal for manned flights.” 1 In a 1982 interview, a range safety officer stated, “the space shuttle gives the best configuration for a large explosion.” 14 In 2005, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said of the shuttle, “It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible,” and that the shuttle was “inherently flawed.” “When combined, commercial, scientific, and national security payloads would require 50 Space Shuttle missions per year. This was enough to justify – at least on paper – investing in the Shuttle.” 1 NASA was so confident in its ability to achieve routine access to space through the shuttle that it planned to phase out of expendable launch vehicles (ELV’s) such as the Atlas, Titan, and Delta rockets. In reality, NASA only achieved 135 shuttle launches over the duration of the program (1981-2011), an average of 4.5 flights per year, an order of magnitude less than what was planned, and after the Challenger disaster of 1986, ELV production was rapidly resumed. The space shuttle orbiters were built in Palmdale, CA. The orbiters ended up costing $1+ billion each. The flight of Columbia in 1981 with two test pilots aboard was the first U.S. space flight since the last Apollo mission in 1975 (which was the Apollo-Soyuz test project). After the fourth flight in June 1982, the Agency declared the Shuttle system “operational,” meaning that the spacecraft and propulsion system had passed their flight tests, and could carry the full crew of 7 astronauts. The final space shuttle mission, STS-135, ended July 21, 2011 when Atlantis landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The complete roster of orbiter vehicles ...

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