The Instigator
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Helium-Flash
Con (against)
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The Space Shuttle was better than Russian Spacecraft during the same period.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/24/2011 Category: Science
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,460 times Debate No: 17634
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
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F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Pro

I think that the space shuttle received so much negative press during and after its era. It's failures were magnified. It's successes were relatively unknown. However, I feel that it was safer, more technologically advanced and more reliable than Russian spacecraft that operated during the same period as the space shuttle did.
Helium-Flash

Con

Ok, so I want to begin by simply paying homage to the space shuttle. The shuttle was, in a word, awesome. It was a cool-looking symbol of adventure and will be sorely missed. However, aside from aesthetics, and the spirit of adventure that it encapsulated, I believe that its achievements fell short of Soyuz for the following reasons:

- Firstly, the elephant in the room with regards to the space shuttle program is what it actually achieved. It didn't take us to the Moon or Mars or to any asteroids. It took us into orbit. No more, no less. Arguably the shuttle's most high-profile achievement has been the construction and maintenance of the International Space Station. This being said, the ISS, in my opinion, represents a tremendous waste of money. Few experiments have been performed aboard the ISS that could not have been conducted under simulated conditions on Earth. The project has sucked up $100 billion so far with little, if anything, to show for it. This is money that could have been used to land a rover on Titan, put a sub into the oceans of Europa, send men back to the Moon, or to Mars. The list is endless. The shuttle worked for the last 14 years of its life in the service of a dollar-guzzling monstrosity.

- Secondly, the intention of the space shuttle program was to create an efficient, inexpensive space truck. It was intended to make space travel easy and routine. In this the project failed enormously. It was incredibly expensive and difficult to maintain. The cost of a Soyuz mission is approximately $100 million. The average space shuttle mission cost approximately $450 million.

- Thirdly, comparing the failure rate of the two vehicles sees a higher rate of fatality for the space shuttle. 228 cosmonauts have flown in Soyuz missions, of which 4 have died, representing a 1.75% fatality rate. The space shuttle has flown 692 astronauts and lost 14 of them, being a 2.02% fatality rate.

Interestingly, since we are comparing the operation of the Soyuz and the space shuttle over the same period, the Soyuz had not a single fatality during the entire period the space shuttle was in operation. The last fatal failure of a Soyuz mission was in 1971, and the last non-fatal failure was in 1983. Soyuz has now 27 consistent failure-free years under its belt, with the space shuttle last failing catastrophically in only 2003.
Debate Round No. 1
F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for accepting and welcome him to DDO. I will first provide my argument for the space shuttle and compare it with the Russian Soyuz since this was the major Russian human spaceflight program that operated during the same time as the space shuttle. Secondly, since my opponent provided opening arguments in the first round, I will rebut those arguments.
Before starting, I'd like to clarify that "Russian Spacecraft during the same time period" means the Soyuz which operated in roughly the same time period as the Space Shuttle Era. It doesn't necessarily mean the exact dates from which the Shuttle launched and retired because Russian Space Programs didn't start and stop at these exact dates.

(I) OPENING ARGUMENTS

1) Reusability
Unlike the Soyuz, the Space Shuttle was reusable. While the Shuttle may have cost more to maintain, NASA didn't continually have to build new shuttles.

2) Amount of space available within spacecraft
The space shuttle is a massive structure with a volume of 2,500 cubic feet and can accomodate 6 astronauts who can have a comfortable ride. The Soyuz on the other hand has 141 cubic feet of habitable volume for 3 cosmonauts who sit with their knees drawn up to their chest and must sit that way for the entire ride. In fact, TIME magazine makes an interesting analogy: If the Shuttles were business class and the old apollo was coach, the Soyuz is a little like hiding in the wheel well for a coast to coast flight.[1] It would be even more difficult for larger astronauts to adjust to the Soyuz stlye now that NASA will be using the Soyuz to get people to and from the International Space Station.

3) Payload capacity
The space shuttle had a payload capacity of over 50,000 lbs [5] whereas the Soyuz only had a capacity of 7,000 lbs [4].

4) Landing
Finally, the biggest difference between the Shuttle and the Soyuz is the re-entry and landing. The Shuttle would slow its speed and enter the atmosphere belly first, after which it would glide to a runway where it would land like an airplane[3]. Astronauts sit upright through this phase[1] and experience about 3.5g's of force on landing [5]. The landing module of Soyuz on the other hand, after detaching falls into the atmosphere at 492 mph before its parachutes open. The Soyuz also experiences a blackout period where there is no communication between the cosmonauts and ground controls. Even with the parachutes and retrorockets, it smacks the ground hard with 5g's of force experienced by the Russian cosmonauts.[6]

(II) REBUTTALS


1) International Space Station was a waste of money
This is just my opponent's opinion. No sources given to support this.

2) The Shuttle itself was more expensive than the Soyuz
It was more expensive than Soyuz but it was better for reasons I've mentioned in my argument.

3) Fatalities compared to Soyuz
My opponent mentioned that while 4 Soviet cosmonauts have died in the Soyuz program whereas 14 NASA astronauts have died in the Space Shuttle program. However, to truly find out which program is safer, we need to look at how many fatal failures occurred, not just the number of fatalities. The Soviet program had two disasters Soviet 1 and Soviet 11 in which all the cosmonauts died. The Space Shuttle program had 2 disasters Challenger and Columbia in which all the astronauts died.[2] The Space Shuttle had 133 successes and 2 failures. So for safety purposes, the Space Shuttle was not necessarily less safe than the Soyuz. It just carried more people in it during all missions including the failed missions.

Sources
[1] http://www.time.com...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://www-pao.ksc.nasa.gov...
[4] http://webcache.googleusercontent.com...
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[6] http://www.jamesoberg.com...

Helium-Flash

Con

If an average Soyuz mission costs around $114 million, and an average shuttle mission costs $1.2 billion, what exactly is the advantage of the shuttle being reusable? The intention of building a reusable vehicle was to make a program that was easier and cheaper. Since it clearly failed to achieve these goals, the fact that it was reusable is neither here nor there. Note that this reusable space shuttle failed twice, meaning two of the units were completely lost to the ether. The result: only 3 orbiters left. Coupled with safety issues and difficulty in maintenance, this made the entire point of having a reusable craft, i.e. being able to send up a large number of frequent, cheap, routine flights, completely defunct. Also the shuttle wasn't completely reusable, only the orbiter was. The fuel tanks had to be rebuilt for each flight.

While the shuttle may have been more comfortable for the astronauts on board, it also crucially killed more of the astronauts on board, as well as leaving astronauts waiting around for months due to large delays to virtually every scheduled flight. Again I would argue that since the comfortable shuttle failed to achieve most of its other intended objectives, the comfort level is irrelevant. Nobody would prefer a more comfortable trip if the cost was a reduction in safety and reliability.

With regards to the payload I would make the same point. Since the failure rate was higher, as were fatalities, and since the payload capacity was largely used in the service of a useless, funds-swallowing monstrosity (the ISS), the payload capacity is to an extent irrelevant. Yes, the shuttle had a greater payload capacity, but not one that was put to particularly good use.

Additionally, is the difference between 3.5 g and 5.0 g of force in re-entry really significant? The spacecraft that would have replaced the shuttle, Ares, would have reverted to the same re-entry procedure as the Soyuz uses. Hence NASA clearly do not see this minor difference as significant.

My rebuttals to your rebuttals:

1) The ISS being a waste of money is not only my opinion, but the opinion of many professionals in the field, including NASA's Administrator, Michael Griffin. NASA has all but admitted that it was a mistake. If you take its intended mission to be primarily scientific, then it has produced outrageously poor value for money given its $100 billion price tag. No science has really come out of it at all; at least nothing that couldn't have been done under simulated conditions on Earth. I submit that if you disagree that the ISS is a waste of money, or at least, exceptionally poor value for money, then I challenge you to cite an example of good science that has come from it and we can decide together if it was worth $100 billion. NASA has a national budget of only $18 billion a year, and fully $2 billion of this is sucked up by keeping a mostly empty, incomplete space station in low earth orbit. Again I say this is crucial money that could be spent in ways that would yield far greater return in terms of science. The total cost of the immensely productive Cassini-Huygens mission stands at only $3.7 billion. How about putting a Cassini-style mission in orbit around Neptune for less than the cost of two years worth of ISS maintenance.

http://www.guardian.co.uk...
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com...
http://www.infowars.com...

2) Your point about the size of the shuttle's payload is well taken. But given that this payload capacity has not been used to its full potential somewhat negates the benefit, given the fact that a shuttle mission is more expensive by literally an order of magnitude. If 10 Soyuz missions can be sent for the cost of a single shuttle mission, you can put more payload into orbit with Soyuz for the same amount of money (and more safely).

3) Since 1967 there have been 101 Soyuz flights to date, and 4 failures. 2 fatal, 2 non-fatal. This a 3.96% failure rate. There have been 135 shuttle launches to date, with 3 failures. 2 fatal, 1 non-fatal. 2.22% failure rate. So, in the totality of Soyuz's lifetime (1967 to present) there has been a slightly higher failure rate than the totality of the shuttle's lifetime, although I say again with a lower overall fatality rate.

However the title of this debate is "The Space Shuttle was better than Russian Spacecraft during the same period." The notion that because the two programs start and finish at different times means we aren't comparing them over the same period is somewhat contradicted by your own proposition. According to your own proposition, we are clearly comparing the two spacecraft over the time period of the shuttle. If we compare the operation of the shuttle and Soyuz for the period 1981-2011, the Soyuz had only 1 failure, Soyuz T-10A in 1983, and this was Non-Fatal. There were 77 manned Soyuz flights during this period, hence a 1.3% failure rate, and a 0.00% fatality rate.

I point out that it is somewhat unfair of you to decide at this point that we aren't comparing the Soyuz and the shuttle over the same period, as this is what the proposition clearly states. This isn't a debate about Soyuz versus Shuttle, but shuttle versus Russian spacecraft over the same period. Note that Soyuz is not a single craft as it has been modified many times. Soyuz is more the name of a program. To be fair, if we were comparing Soyuz to US spaceflight over the entirety of its life we would have to go back further than the shuttle's lifetime in terms of US manned space flight also, i.e. right back to 1967. But as I'm sure you agree, this would be a different debate.

You state clearly in your opening post:

"However, I feel that it was safer, more technologically advanced and more reliable than Russian spacecraft that operated during the same period as the space shuttle did."

Which, put simply, it wasn't.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov...
http://www.space.com...
http://www.space.com...
Debate Round No. 2
F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Pro

My opponent states that due to the wording of the resolution, he wants to argue not just about the Soyuz but also other Russian spacecraft that operated during that period, I accept his terms.

This means that I will consider other Russian spacecraft besides the Soyuz that operated between 1972 and 2011 which was the period the space shuttle operated in, which was a little less than 30 years. However my opponent's argument on fatality rate is erroneos and I will explain why when I touch upon that point at the end of the debate.

A brief overview: I will list the major spacecraft that the Russians have planned, constructed and wasted money on, from 1972 to 2011. I will be talking about the Soyuz spacecraft, the Progress spacecraft, and the Buran program which was Russia's response to the Space Shuttle program. In cases where a direct comparison with the Buran program cannot be made, I will compare the Shuttle to the Soyuz. The Russians spent 20 billion rubles [3] which was over US$700 million [4] on the Buran program and there was only one mission which was in 1986 [5]. Now that I gave an overview of my argument, I will continue with the debate.

My Responses to Con's rebuttals

1) Reusability

If an average Soyuz mission costs around $114 million, and an average shuttle mission costs $1.2 billion, what exactly is the advantage of the shuttle being reusable?

Firstly the Space Shuttle costs $450 million to launch according to NASA's website [2]. My opponent's statement is incorrect as well as unsourced. I have no idea why he thinks it costs $1.2 billion. Secondly, my opponent provides no sources on his price for the Soyuz mission. Therefore my opponent failed to prove the average Soyuz mission costs less than the Shuttle and my point about reusability of the Space Shuttle being an advantage still stands.

2) Comfort
I provided sources to show why the shuttle is more comfortable. My opponent points out delays (no sources) and safety which is a separate point that I am going to argue and is not relevant to comfort. He therefore conceded the point about comfort. The Space Shuttle does provide a more comfortable ride.

3) Payload Capacity

My opponent conceded the point on payload capacity and agreed that the Shuttle was better in this regard. Whether the payload capacity was put to good use by servicing the international space station is a point I will argue later.

4) Impact Force
The difference between 3.5g and 5g is not insignificant. My opponent says "The spacecraft that would have replaced the shuttle, Ares, would have reverted to the same re-entry procedure as the Soyuz uses. Hence NASA clearly do not see this minor difference as significant." Ares is the rocket that would have launched the Orion Spacecraft. The landing of the Orion is different because it splashes down on water [1] whereas the Soyuz lands on the ground. So, the difference in the impact force is not insignificant to NASA as my opponent says, so my argument still stands.

My opponent's case

1) Internation Space Station was a waste of money
My opponent says that the Shuttle's highest profile achivement is servicing the ISS and then argues that the ISS is a waste of money. The problem with this logic is that the Shuttle was used for many purposes including servicing the Hubble Space Telescope and conducting health sciences studies to enable human presence farther from Earth than low earth orbit, where we are now [6] and not just for the ISS. Secondly, the Russian spacecrafts Soyuz and Progress have also docked with the ISS and helped construct it so I could just as easily argue my opponent's own point against him. The ISS is an International Space Station and its expenses were distinct from those of the Space Shuttle.

2) Usage of Payload & Cost of missions
Con makes an argument for which he provides no sources. He says that Space Shuttle did not fully use its payload capacity but does not have hard facts to back up his claim. Neither does he give any sources to prove that the Soyuz, Progress or Buran fully used their payload capacities.

My opponent has not proved that the average Russian spacecraft cost more than the Space Shuttle. Here I prove that the Buran actually cost more than the Shuttle. Over 700 billion US dollars [3][4] were spent on the Buran for just one mission and it was a massive failure. It only lasted for one mission. This furthers my point that the Space Shuttle was far more sucessful than Russian spacecraft during its time.

3) Resolution, Failures and fatalities

(a)The resolution was "....(The Shuttle) was safer, more technologically advanced and more reliable than Russian spacecraft that operated during the same period as the space shuttle did." The Soyuz, Progress and Buran were Russian spacecraft that operated in roughly the same time period that the Space Shuttle did. It is therefore appropriate to do a side by side comparison of the Shuttle and the Soyuz (and Progress and Buran too, if you wanted). The Shuttle's time frame is 1972 to 2011. The Soyuz's time frame is 1967 to 2011 (maybe longer). They both completed roughly the same number of missions with the Shuttle doing slightly more. The Shuttle had two fatal failures in 1986 and 2003. The Soyuz had two fatal failures in 1967 and 1971. It is obvious that the Shuttle and the Soyuz had roughly the same number of fatal failures. My opponent's logic to not include the Soyuz's failures is weak and is an example of cherry-picking data. He also accuses me of being unfair when it is clearly he who attempted to pick and choose the data that he wants to present.

(b) My opponent concedes that the Soyuz had a higher failure rate compared to number of missions.

(c) I already explained that the higher fatality rate was not because the Shuttle was less safe but because it could carry more number of people. Both Shuttle and Soyuz had only 2 failures. There simply hapenned to be more people in the Shuttle on the failed missions. Since fatal failures are equal and overall failures for the shuttle are less, this shows that the shuttle was safer and more reliable than the Soyuz. The higher payload capacity, lower impact force, reusability and comfort proves that it was more technologically advanced than the Soyuz.

Sources
[1] http://solarsystem.nasa.gov...
[2] http://www.nasa.gov...
[3] http://www.astronautix.com...
[4] http://www.google.com...
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[6] http://www.signonsandiego.com...

Helium-Flash

Con

1) Reusability

The shuttle costs $450 million to launch, the total average mission cost is $1.2 billion (although recent analysis of the shuttle's lifetime has suggested the price of an average flight is closer to $1.5 billion). The Soyuz costs $69 million to launch, and $114 million for the average mission. Russia is offering the use of Soyuz to the US government at a price of $50 million per seat, i.e. three seats, $150 million for the mission, which is still immensely cheaper than a shuttle mission even with the Russians taking profit from the deal.
http://www.astronautix.com...
http://www.space.com...
http://www.newscientist.com...

Without getting bitchy, I would like to point out that I have posted links supporting these claims already and yet you have accused my claims of being 'unsourced'. Since you stated, "Therefore my opponent failed to prove the average Soyuz mission costs less than the Shuttle and my point about reusability of the Space Shuttle being an advantage still stands", I assume now I have clearly sourced these claims my arguments regarding the reusability of the shuttle can be reinstated as valid?

Additionally, I would like to restate the fact that the shuttle is not entirely reusable, only the orbiter. Crucially, with the amount of maintenance required between trips for the orbiter, as well as the safety concerns that dogged it throughout its lifetime, the shuttle was earthbound for a considerable amount of time between missions. So I ask again: what is the great advantage of reusability, if its intended benefits did not come to fruition?

2) Comfort

You say I have conceded the shuttle was more comfortable. I agree, it was. I concede this point. However you have not commented on whether one would prefer a more comfortable trip into space if the cost of that comfort was a loss in safety and reliability. This is far from a separate issue.

3) Payload Capacity

Regarding the payload, I would like point out that you stated:
"The space shuttle had a payload capacity of over 50,000 lbs [5] whereas the Soyuz only had a capacity of 7,000 lbs [4]."
This is incorrect. The payload of the Soyuz is 17,100 lbs. I would guess that you have confused pounds and kilograms, as Soyuz's payload is 7,800 kg.
http://www.astronautix.com...

This represents a substantially smaller increase in payload size from Soyuz to shuttle. Plus, you again neglected to comment on my argument. The shuttle's payload is a little under 3 times the size as the Soyuz's payload, yet the cost of the mission is around ten times the price. Hence the Soyuz can put more than 3 times the amount of payload into orbit for each dollar spent.

4) Impact Force

This is essentially the same argument as with comfort. You say its 'better', I say being 'better' at the expense of safety, reliability, and at a cost of an order of magnitude greater, negates the benefit.

1) "Internation Space Station was a waste of money"

The problem with the ISS isn't so much that its a complete waste of money. With all the money in the world to go to Mars, the Moon, Titan, Europa, etc etc, then it would be great to have the ISS as well. However in terms of its scientific return for the money invested, considering the real-world issue that is limited funds, it truly is of tremendously poor value. Soyuz has docked with the ISS, but has done so much more cheaply, i.e. the Russians have wasted less money on this lame duck.

I note you have failed to cite any beneficial science wrought of the ISS. Furthermore, since the ISS was constructed and maintained using the space shuttle, and since the ISS project was conditional on the existence and use of the shuttle, the ISS is hardly a 'separate issue'. The shuttle has not really achieved anything in its own right, it is merely a transport. It hasn't actually done any 'exploration' of space, simply gone back and forth to low Earth orbit. Hence 'what it has done' in Low Earth Orbit is key in considering the success of the unit itself.

The Hubble is truly the shuttle's only great achievement. So, we can mark up one great achievement for the shuttle there. 30 years and $196 billion, and one great achievement.

2) Usage of Payload & Cost of missions

I didn't say the shuttle did not use its payload to full capacity, but to its full potential, i.e. this awesome payload was used primarily in the service of the ISS. The ISS has produced little to no beneficial science, hence while the shuttle had a large payload it was utilised to little effect. This does not require technical sources, it is an opinion. An opinion shared by Michael Griffin and many others in the astronomical community (see references sourced in the previous post).

Furthermore, the claim that Buran cost $700 billion is utterly absurd. It cost $16-17 billion, and died a death for the simple reason that Russia ran out of money (for unrelated reasons).
You bring up the budgetary miscalculations of Buran in an attempt to emphasise the failings of the Russian space program. These are the figures for the space shuttle's projected costs, and actual expense:
"NASA had estimated that the program would cost $7.45 billion ($43 billion in 2011 dollars, adjusting for inflation) in development/non-recurring costs, and $9.3M ($54M in 2011 dollars) per flight. Early estimates for the cost to deliver payload to low earth orbit were as low as $118 per pound ($260/kg) of payload ($635/pound in 2011 dollars), based on marginal or incremental launch costs, and assuming a 65,000 pound (30 000 kg) payload capacity and 50 launches per year.
The actual total cost of the shuttle program through 2011, adjusted for inflation, is $196 billion.[4] The exact breakdown into non-recurring and recurring costs is not available, but, according to NASA, the average cost to launch a Space Shuttle as of 2011 is about $450 million per mission."
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.k26.com...

3) Resolution, Failures and fatalities

"The Shuttle's time frame is 1972 to 2011. The Soyuz's time frame is 1967 to 2011 (maybe longer). They both completed roughly the same number of missions with the Shuttle doing slightly more. The Shuttle had two fatal failures in 1986 and 2003. The Soyuz had two fatal failures in 1967 and 1971. It is obvious that the Shuttle and the Soyuz had roughly the same number of fatal failures. My opponent's logic to not include the Soyuz's failures is weak and is an example of cherry-picking data. He also accuses me of being unfair when it is clearly he who attempted to pick and choose the data that he wants to present."

Again, I don't wish to get all bitchy up in here, but this position is very intellectually dishonest of you. For one thing, you have (deliberately or otherwise) compared the period in which the space shuttle program was in development AND operation (1972 - 2011) with the period that the Soyuz was actually operational (1967 - 2011). You can surely see that this is a clear example of cherry picking the data, a charge that you ironically lay upon me.

I say again, you stated:

"However, I feel that it was safer, more technologically advanced and more reliable than Russian spacecraft that operated during the same period as the space shuttle did."

The space shuttle 'operated' between 1981 and 2011, so we are clearly comparing Russian spacecraft that operated during this period. This being the case, Soyuz has had a lower failure rate, and a non-existent fatality rate, during this period (see previous post).

Finally, I would like to ask: if the shuttle was "safer, more technologically advanced and more reliable than Russian spacecraft that operated during the same period as the space shuttle did", why has the US government retired the shuttle, and provisioned for the use of Soyuz?
Debate Round No. 3
F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Pro

I thank my opponent for engaging in this debate. Since this is the last round, I will attempt to summarize most of the main points brought up as well as answer my opponent's questions.

1) Reusability
I pointed out in my opening argument, TIME magazine's analogy between the Shuttle and the Soyuz: If the Shuttles were business class and the old Apollo was coach, the Soyuz is a little like hiding in the wheel well for a coast to coast flight.[1] I never said that the Shuttle was cheap, just that it was reusable. An astronaut would prefer a reusable business class flight (even if slightly more expensive) than the Soyuz which is an extremely uncomfortable flight. This is not just TIME magazine's opinion but something I have proved throughout the course of this debate. Even my opponent concedes that the Shuttle is a more comfortable ride. Not to mention that the Space Shuttle has a much higher passenger and payload capacity. Bigger and better vehicles cost more than little ones.

2) Comfort
"you have not commented on whether one would prefer a more comfortable trip into space if the cost of that comfort was a loss in safety and reliability"

Safety is a separate issue from comfort which I argued under a separate heading and will argue again in a separte point. As for comfort, there is no getting around the fact that the Shuttle is more comfortable.

3) Payload Capacity & Cost Effectiveness
The Soyuz can reliably carry 6300 lbs to low earth orbit (LEO) [2] whereas the Shuttle can carry 53,600 lbs to LEO [3]. I did not confuse lbs with kgs. This is 8.5 times as much as the Soyuz. My opponent also concedes that he never said that the payload is not utilized to its full capacity. He instead uses the word "potential" which is very subjective and cannot be proved with facts. I ask that the voters disregard that point. He also blames the Internation Space Station and did not address the fact that both Shuttle and Soyuz serviced the ISS and the failures of the ISS must not be blamed on the Shuttle but insists that they are. The ISS is also not a failure as I will prove later.

"you again neglected to comment on my argument. The shuttle's payload is a little under 3 times the size as the Soyuz's payload, yet the cost of the mission is around ten times the price. Hence the Soyuz can put more than 3 times the amount of payload into orbit for each dollar spent."

I've proven that the stats given by opponent are incorrect while agreeing that the Shuttle is slightly more expensive than the Soyuz because it was better. Here is my answer to my opponent's question: The Shuttle comes with the added benefit of the crew being able to perform in-flight experiments and safely bringing them back to earth. No other spacecraft can carry both cargo and personnel while simultaneously conducting microgravity experiments or repair and maintenance operations. Other launch vehicles are optimized to perform one task, which significantly reduces cost, but with the space shuttle, it is versatility that makes it more expensive than Russian spacecraft [4].

4) Impact Force
The Soyuz slams onto the ground with a force of 5g's whereas the Space Shuttle smoothly lands with a force of only 3.5g's. My opponent tried to say that it doesn't matter since NASA's new Orion is going to use a Soyuz style landing. However, when I pointed out that it actually lands on water much like the Apollo, my opponent conceded this point entirely and says that because of safety and cost, this issue is irrelevant. I already said that these are separate points, but there is no doubt that the Shuttle had a more advanced landing system than the primitive Soyuz which used parachutes as opposed to landing like an aircraft. While the Buran landed like the Space Shuttle, it was hugely unsucessful having been retired and destroyed after only one mission.

5) Failures and Fatalities
Keeping things simple, it is quite obvious that both the Shuttle and the Soyuz had two major fatal failures in a similar number of missions. I fail to see how having the failures while the Shuttle was still in development makes the Soyuz a safer spacecraft. It had two fatal failures while the Shuttle was being planned and developed. The Shuttle later took off and two failures of its own. My opponent's argument is based more on semantics than actual consideration of safety.

More importantly, my opponent himself concedes that overall failures (fatal and non-fatal) are more for the Soyuz. This makes the Shuttle safer. The Soyuz has a hard ground landing which poses a higher risk to astronauts. The Shuttle also has a better a more comfortable better landing procedure.

6) Achievements of ISS
Since my opponent challenged me to tell him what the achievements of the ISS are, here is my answer:

(a) The ISS allowed humans to live in space for the long term [7]. If my opponent wants to put a man on Mars and send humans to Titan and Europa, he must first learn what the effects of long term space travel are to humans. These places have already been explored by robotic craft and the next step is to put humans there which cannot safely happen without the ISS. Travelling to Mars, Titan and Europa is not the same as travel to the moon which took a much shorter time period.

(b) Nearly 150 experiments are currently under way on the station, and more than 400 experiments have been conducted since research began nine years ago. These experiments already are leading to advances in the fight against food poisoning, new methods for delivering medicine to cancer cells and the development of more capable engines and materials for use on Earth and in space [5].

(c) NASA won the prestigious 2009 Collier Trophy for the ISS which is considered the top award in aviation.

(d) It did what Russian Space Station serviced entirely by Russian Spacecraft couldn't do. Russia launched Salyut 1 in 1971, which orbited Earth for less than a year due to a series of equipment failures [7].

(e) Studies on Humans: According to HowStuffWorks, "During the last eight years, occupants of the station have studied human bone loss during extended time in microgravity, radiation levels in space and how to protect against them, different techniques for doing in-space soldering to repair equipment, and countless other experiments, repairs, space walks and robotics innovations."[7]

(f) It also marked a significant collaboration between the US and Russia to advance space exploration. What was a competition earlier now bacame a more collaborative enterprise.

Note that I am arguing for the Space Shuttle, not the ISS but since my opponent won't budge, here is the proof that the ISS is acheiving something and not a "complete waste of money" as my opponent says that "could have been used to go to Mars, Titan and Europa." The ISS is actually helping us go to those places.

Since my opponent insists on linking the ISS to the Shuttle, I propose to the voters that if they buy my opponent's argument that the ISS is part of what the Shuttle did, that the benefits of the ISS be considered as achievements of the Shuttle as well.

7) Hubble
My opponent entirely concedes this point and agrees that the Hubble is a great achievement by the Shuttle. Add it to the already enormous list of achievements by the Space Shuttle.

Conclusion
I have proved that the Shuttle was a much better spacecraft in many ways than the Soyuz as well as other failed Russian spacecraft. It was the more technologically advanced and versatile spacecraft with a comfortable ride and features that no other Spacecraft could match such as being able to conduct experiments while carrying passengers as well as cargo. It has a numerous list of achievements and the Shuttle era was truly a golden era in space exploration and will be sorely missed.

Helium-Flash, it was wonderful debating with you and I urge the Voters to vote Pro.

Sources
[1] http://tiny.cc...;
[2] http://bit.ly...
[3] http://bit.ly...
[4] http://bit.ly...
[5] http://1.usa.gov...
[6] http://1.usa.gov...
[7] http://bit.ly...

Helium-Flash

Con

Reusability
Reusability is not an end in itself, but is desirable because after one large initial investment you have a low cost vehicle. In this the shuttle failed. A flight was projected to cost $54m, and in reality cost $1.2 bn. The other intended benefit of reusability was that the shuttle could be sent into orbit more frequently. Again the shuttle failed. It required such an extensive amount of repair and maintenance between missions that the orbiter was grounded for months at a time. Indeed the shuttle was grounded for fully 6 of its 30 years in service as a result of the Challenger and Columbia disasters.
The anticipated advantages of reusability never came to fruition. The shuttle was treated for its entire life like a test craft flown by test pilots. Shuttle missions never became regular and routine, and I don't believe my opponent has adequately dealt with these points of logic.

Comfort
It is obscure that my opponent has made comfort such a central theme of his argument. Nevertheless, while the shuttle was undoubtedly more comfortable, the overall shuttle design which enabled this comfort was fatally flawed in terms of safety and reliability. Physical comfort is of little consequence to an astronaut that is terrified about making it home alive.
My opponent says "Safety is a separate issue from comfort", yet has not actually 'argued' this point beyond stating that 'it just is'. I suggest that you could make a wonderful shuttle, with comfy sofas, a jacuzzi and a holodeck, but if it only makes it home 50% of the time comfort is of little consequence.

3) Payload Capacity & Cost Effectiveness
"The Soyuz can reliably carry 6300 lbs to low earth orbit (LEO) [2] whereas the Shuttle can carry 53,600 lbs to LEO [3]."
My opponent astonishingly reasserts his original mistake. The Soyuz payload ranges between 15,100 and 17,200lb, the latest model being 17,100 lb. The Soyuz puts more payload into orbit for each dollar spent.
The link that he uses in support of his assertion,
http://en.wikipedia.org...
refers to the Soyuz-1, a proposed design for a medium class version of the Soyuz rocket that is not in fact in operation.
http://en.wikipedia.org...
My opponent has confused (deliberately or otherwise) the details of this proposed Soyuz-1 rocket with the actual Soyuz craft in operation. Given the preponderance of sources on Google and wikipedia citing the Soyuz's payload in the 15,000-17,000 lb range, I am suspicious that my opponent has deliberately gone trawling for a link to support a false claim.
My opponent also states that the shuttle is only "slightly more expensive". The difference between $114m and $1.2bn is not trivial.
Furthermore, I accept that "Bigger and better vehicles cost more than little ones" is a fair argument with regard to the initial cost of the shuttle. However its reusability was intended to bring the cost down dramatically for subsequent flights. This is the main reason why NASA built a reusable space shuttle. It was estimated that each flight of the shuttle would cost $54m. In reality it cost $1.2bn per flight. 'Bigger and better vehicles' may well cost more to build, but it is not indicative of them being 'better' that they then cost such an inordinate amount of money to actually launch. The excessive mission cost speaks to the shuttles failings: its safety concerns, its susceptibility to damage, its excessive maintenance requirements.

Impact Force
My opponent argues that "The Soyuz has a hard ground landing which poses a higher risk to astronauts." I wonder at how my opponent has estimated this risk, since the Columbia exploded on re-entry with the loss of all crew, while no injuries or fatalities have ever been incurred in a Soyuz landing.

Failures and fatalities
"My opponent's argument is based more on semantics than actual consideration of safety."
My argument is not based on semantics, but on my opponent's own words:
"However, I feel that it was safer, more technologically advanced and more reliable than Russian spacecraft that operated during the same period as the space shuttle did."
We are not discussing Russian spacecraft that preceded the space shuttle, but Russian spacecraft that operated during the lifetime of the shuttle - 1981-2011.
For some reason my opponent thinks we are comparing the shuttle with anything that bears the name of 'Soyuz', whether it flew in 1967 or hasn't even come into service yet. We are clearly not debating this, as my opponent's own words testify.
The Soyuz rocket comes in seven different variants:
* Soyuz 1 - 1966-1975
* Soyuz-L - 1970-1971
* Soyuz-M - 1971-1976
* Soyuz-U - 1973 - present (payload 15,100 lb)
* Soyuz-U2 - 1982-1995 (payload 15,100 lb)
* Soyuz-FG - 2001-present (payload 17,200 lb)
* Soyuz-2 - 2004-present (payload 17,100 lb)
Comparing Russian craft that operated during the shuttle's lifetime, we are concerned with the last 4 of those 7 models. The very reason why Soyuz is widely considered reliable is because the craft has been heavily modified to eliminate failures. The Soyuz U2, FG and 2 have never suffered a major failure. The Soyuz U, the oldest model in service during the shuttle's lifetime, suffered one major failure in 1983. This was non-fatal. Russian spacecraft have unquestionably been more reliable during the shuttle's lifetime.

ISS
I find my opponent cherrypicking his comparisons. He says the ISS has achieved what Russia was 'never able to do', as the Salyut space station orbited Earth for less than a year.
Russia's Mir station orbited Earth from 1986 -2001, i.e. 15 years. It held the record for the longest uninterrupted time for an astronaut in space, at 3644 days, until this record was broken in 2010 by the ISS. I point out that 3644 days is far longer than any mission to the Moon or Mars would be and the ISS' achievement in this regard is simply unnecessary. The study of prolonged space on humans has now been studied extensively on Skylab and Mir and the ISS has added little if anything new. Plus no experiments have been performed aboard the ISS that could not have been performed under simulated conditions on Earth.
With regards to the 'prestigious' Collier Trophy, I would point out that this is an American award for American achievements in space, granted by the NAA. This was awarded in recognition of:
"the design, development and assembly of the of the world's largest spacecraft, an orbiting laboratory that promises new discoveries for mankind"
Note it only 'promises' new discoveries and is yet to make good on this.

Hubble
My opponent states that we can "Add it to the already enormous list of achievements by the Space Shuttle." I have argued that the ISS is no such great achievement. Aside from Hubble I have not seen my opponent cite any other of the shuttle's supposed great achievements.

In Conclusion
The shuttle is brash, sexy and expensive. However it was enormously more expensive than it was intended to be, failed more times than the Russian craft that operated during the same period, and continued losing lives long after Russian engineers had entirely eliminated fatalities from their space program. The Soyuz has robustly done the job it was intended to do, with an impeccable safety record at very low cost.
The shuttle serviced the ISS, which was Reagan's pointless attempt to compete with Mir. The last Apollo mission was in 1972, since when all of the real 'exploration' of space has been conducted by robots and telescopes. NASA's great achievements of the last 30 years are Spirit, Opportunity, Cassini, Voyager, Galileo, Messenger, Kepler, WMAP... None of which were launched by the shuttle.
I ask again:
If the shuttle was "safer, more technologically advanced and more reliable than Russian spacecraft that operated during the same period as the space shuttle did", why has NASA retired the shuttle and provisioned for the use of Soyuz?
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by BennyW 5 years ago
BennyW
I(f you want to debate weather NASA or Virgin Galactic is more efficient, I will be pro for Virgin.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Would you be interested if I changed the topic to something along the lines of: The Space Shuttle was a huge success and NASA should have continued using it?
Posted by BennyW 5 years ago
BennyW
I think that it is a good thing we are moving in the direction of privatized space exploration, however I agree that the American Shuttle were better than anything Russian.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Lol at the Russian comment! But, it can't be denied that the Space Shuttles were widely considered a failure and attracted a lot of criticism. I am against that and am trying to say that it wasn't all bad and definitely better than those made by our Russian counterparts.
Posted by drmigit2 5 years ago
drmigit2
Um, this is not even debated. The Russians used hope and duct tape to get their shuttles in space, and never got to the moon.
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