Thoughtful Courage or Fearful Safety? Thoughts inspired by ‘Safe Is Not An Option’ by Rand Simberg

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The international crew of Columbia’s final flight STS-107 [IMG: NASA]
Having recently read Safe Is Not An Option, I started out intending to write a review of the book but decided to expand that out to capture some thoughts on the subject at greater length.

Firstly I think its worth noting the book’s full title  –  Safe Is Not An Option: Overcoming The Futile Obsession With Getting Everyone Back Alive That Is Killing Our Expansion Into Space. So a pretty uncompromising introduction right there on the cover, but any serious discussion on this subject needs to confront the subject head on and challenge our preconceptions and Simberg certainly doesn’t dodge that challenge. So why the need for this seemingly iconoclastic viewpoint?
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In conversation with Alexei Leonov

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Alexei Leonov (on right) With Deke Slayton during the Apollo Soyuz Test Project [IMG: Wikipedia under CC license]
December 15th 2015. It’s a day that many space enthusiasts in the UK will remember for years to come. Tim Peake rode a Soyuz up to the International Space Station along with astronaut Tim Kopra and veteran Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko  and for once my country went a bit space crazy. 

In London’s South Kensington, the Science Museum pulled out all the stops to mark the event in true style with events including live broadcasts by the BBC Stargazing Live show with physicist and committed space enthusiast Professor Brian Cox accompanied by former Station Commander Chris Hadfield. But Hadfield wasn’t the only seasoned space traveller in attendance on the night…
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Space Trucks! Big G and the TKS

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1985 Department of Defence concept shows Buran approaching a Soviet Space Station with 2 TKS and 1 Soyuz craft attached[IMG: US DoD via National Archives]
Towards the end of the 1960’s both the USA and Soviet Union had their eyes firmly on the Moon, but away from the lunar race plans were beginning to take shape for longer duration flights within Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Designs for Space Stations came into focus both for civilian and military purposes and these studies led to a need for a new generation of ships that could perform the logistical roles that would be generated by these orbital outposts.

Here we’ll take a look at two contemporary concepts from that era. They were designed to carry out broadly similar roles, yet one had its feet firmly in the earlier days of the space race, while the other created an enduring legacy that lasts to this day in the biggest space construction of them all, the International Space Station (ISS).
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Once around the Moon: The Soviet circumlunar race

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The final leg of the race to the Moon as visualised by TIME magazine

Whilst the complexities and expense of a lunar landing mission always looked difficult for the Soviet space programme to achieve before the end of the 1960’s, the possibility of a simpler circumlunar flight certainly seemed within reach. Unfortunately one of the fundamental truths of the Soviet programme was that the so called Space Race was in reality always as much an internal  battle for influence and funding between the competing design bureaus as it ever was a clash between superpowers.

But in spite of missed opportunities, tragedies and political indecision this was a race that nearly went right down to the wire.
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