Ships for this new ocean
The voyages of Christopher Columbus are invoked by Americans more than any other historical analog to capture the ethos of the manned space program. A better analogy would be Leif Ericksson. He and his fellow Norsemen reached North America five centuries before Columbus by travelling in the most remarkable sailing vessels of their time. Not until Columbus, however, did Europeans have at their disposal a robust maritime technology that would allow them to not only reach the Western hemisphere but also to sail back and forth to Europe reliably. Over the last forty-five years, the United States has developed space launch vehicles that can carry astronauts to near-Earth orbit and even to the moon. It has failed, however, to develop the space ship that can do for the United States what the caravel did for Columbus. The current program to build a new suite of launch vehicles simply recycles old technology. It builds longships, not caravels. To achieve its goals for manned spaceflight, NASA must first build a safe, reliable, and economical launch vehicle. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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