I finally got around to reading Maciej’s lament of the Space Shuttle Program tonight, and it pains me to say that there’s a lot of wisdom in his observations. As my three regular readers know, I’m a downright romantic when it comes to space flight, and even more so when it comes to manned space flight. (Hell, if it wasn’t essentially mandatory that you join the Air Force in order to be granted the privilege of strapping yourself to a huge bomb and being ramrodded into low earth orbit, I might be up there myself right now.) All that being said, I can definitely wrap my head around the idea that spending half our annual space budget on getting the Shuttle in and out of orbit safely (or unsafely, as the case may be) isn’t all that logical, and is done at the detriment of being able to spend money on unmanned missions that might have a much higher scientific yield. Unfortunately, we now have an incredibly self-referential system whereby the Shuttle and the International Space Station justify each others’ existences without necessarily having strong independent reasons for hurtling around Earth, so it’s going to be that much harder to back off on pouring time, money, and effort into both programs.

(Note that my feeling is based on taking at face value a lot of what Maciej says about the process by which the Shuttle system was designed; his use of an unenumerated, 51-item del.icio.us link list as his sourcelist makes it reasonably tough to verify every claim. But he seems trustworthy enough!)