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February 01, 2003

ARE THE SHUTTLES TOO OLD

We are in a throwaway society. Anyone in entertainment more than 20 years old is old news.
"The space shuttles are old - that's why they're exploding like fireworks." - a radio announcer.

Well, if a firework happened ever 17 years... .

The discussion seems to have moved quickly to the age of the shuttles. Should they be replaced before more people die. That has been 14 people now.

From all I've heard they were designed for 100 flights. That may have been only guess work. Still, after every flight, the ship looks like someone has put a lighter to it, creating a blackened soot layer. They are almost completely rebuilt each time. The parts are not the same; it is not the same ship that goes up each time.

I also offer this comparison. Many of today's commercial aircraft are more than 20 years old. On each flight they do not approach the same level of stresses. But over time I would believe the comparable stress on the materials is the same.

Remember that the materials on the space shuttle or any spacecraft are vastly different. The outside tiles and every other part are specifically designed for the job they do.
The Space Shuttle Columbia was on its 29th flight. Collectively the five space shuttles have flown 114113 times. [note: the flight number 107 was assigned and there have been sevensix flights since then].

Remember too, the Challenger blew up on take off when it was less than five years old.
The first ever Space Shuttle flight was by Columbia, April 12, 1981. The flight lasted two days.
The specific age of the shuttles are:
Columbia: built . First launch - April 12, 1981. Ended 2.1.2003
Challenger: built. First launch - April 4, 1983. Ended 1.28.1986
Atlantis: built. First launch - Oct. 3, 1985.
Discovery: built. First launch - Aug. 30, 1984. Grounded for entire 2002 year for maintenance
Endeavour: built. First launch - May 7, 1992.

NOTE: Finding the dates. NASA Web site jammed. So far, have not found information I want elsewhere. UPDATE: Found lanch dates, but not build dates.