What happened to the ‘new shuttle’?

 

The 'Orion' spacecraft, due to start shipping people off to the Moon and Mars in the next few years.

The 'Orion' spacecraft, due to start shipping people off to the Moon and Mars in the next few years.

I just read in Discover Magazine (huge fan) of the new space program that’s taking over the very outdated NASA shuttles.  Now, I’m all for it, but after looking at what it’s being replaced with, having a little bit of a idea after an article I read years ago, I’m a little disappointed.  The ‘Orion’ space vehicle, is reverting back to the days of Apollo and using booster rockets (from what I can tell) to send a capsule to space for future Moon and Mars missions, although they’re going to be more advanced than the capsules in the 60’s and 70’s.

Anyways, what I thought was going to be unveiled was this new pie-shaped shuttle that I read about in an article years and years ago, and thought it was pretty cool.  What I liked about it was the fact that it didn’t use dispensable booster rockets to get into space.  How the shuttle works now, is that the actual shuttle lifts off with two giant rockets and a ginormous red gas tank strapped to the bottom… and where does it all go?  Back into the atmosphere to get burned up when they’re all nice and ‘useless’.  I liked this project I heard of (which I found out was called the X-33 shuttle) because it eliminated that, and re-used all the materials it brought up with it.  Materials that, these days, are becoming short in supply and cannot be wasted after a single launch.  Even if the materials cannot be re-used in the space program, they could be recycled for other uses, but that’s a whole other issue.
  

Concept of the X-33 shuttle project, which was given the boot in 2001.

Concept of the X-33 shuttle project, which was given the boot in 2001.

Alas, the X-33 program is no more… what started in the mid-90’s, was thrown out in 2001.  It’s kind of annoying when progress seems like it’s chugging right along, then they basically start a ‘new chapter’ in space exploration with old ideas, and it turns out the only reason that the X-33 was canned….??…….. money….. and problems of course, problems that money couldn’t fix apparently.  Anyways, boo to NASA.

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