Evaluating the Space Shuttle Decision

It was this combination of short and longer-term considerations—the cre­ation of jobs in California before the 1972 election, the interest in poten­tial national security uses of the space shuttle, and the desire to continue a human space flight program that would demonstrate U. S. space leadership to the world and be a source of national pride at home—that led to Richard Nixon’s approval of NASA’s full capability shuttle. Other factors, such as the ability of the shuttle to operate routinely and at greatly reduced costs, were not greatly influential as Nixon and his top advisers made that choice, even though they became the publicly offered justifications for shuttle devel­opment. So an evaluation of the shuttle’s impact on the American space program must begin with an assessment of the shuttle program in terms of those objectives that were the proximate reasons for the choice of the NASA – preferred shuttle.

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