The Space Shuttle Program: A Policy Failure?

Science  30 May 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4754, pp. 1099-1105
DOI: 10.1126/science.232.4754.1099


The 5 January 1972 announcement by President Richard Nixon that the United States would develop during the 1970's a new space transportation system—the space shuttle—has had fundamental impacts on the character of U.S. space activities. In retrospect, it can be argued that the shuttle design chosen was destined to fail to meet many of the policy objectives established for the system; the shuttle's problems in serving as the primary launch vehicle for the United States and in providing routine and cost-effective space transportation are in large part a result of the ways in which compromises were made in the 1971-72 period in order to gain White House and congressional approval to proceed with the program. The decision to develop a space shuttle is an example of a poor quality national commitment to a major technological undertaking.