The current debate over the future of human spaceflight in the USA has been a fascinating, and troubling, exercise in futility for those inextricably committed to an expansive vision of human exploration and development of space. The retirement of the Space Shuttle, originally set for the end of 2010 but later extended into 2011, the technical and funding problems of the Constellation follow-on program that led to its cancellation in 2009, and the emergence of commercial vendors who might be able to offer human access to Earth orbit have all complicated the current environment. In view of this situation, the question may be legitimately asked: what might we learn from earlier efforts to develop a human spaceflight capability the last time such a transition took place? Using the post-Apollo transition from the ballistic capsule to a winged, reusable vehicle as a case study, this article seeks to illuminate the planning, decision-making, economic, and political issues that have arisen in this policy debate. It suggests that a web of interlocking issues—only one of which was technical—affected the course taken. Instead, politics, economics, social and cultural priorities, values, and institutional considerations all helped to frame the debate and shape the decision.
Launius, Roger D. 2012. Planning the post-Apollo space program: are there lessons for the present?. <i>Space Policy<i>, 28(1): 38-44. doi:10.1016/j.spacepol.2011.07.005