Final Discovery

Space Geekout! I love watching stuff being launch into space. It’s spectacular, exciting and educative at the same time. Science just doesn’t get more kickass than this.

But yesterday’s launch has a bittersweet subtext. The Space Shuttle program is close to being shut down. This was the last launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. There will be only 2 more Space Shuttle launches: the last launch of Endeavour and Atlantis. So we will be back to just rockets very soon and we don’t even have too many options. Pretty much the only viable way to get people into space will be the good old Soyuz. If you just compare a Soyuz to a Space Shuttle orbiter, it becomes clear that we are performing quite a downgrade.

Shuttle vs Soyuz

Shuttle vs. Soyuz: “You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.”

On the other hand, there is no need to be too sentimental about the Shuttle. It was a beautiful but ill-conceived system from the get go. The initial idea was to create a plane that would go into space cheaply. That idea was lost during the many compromises and iterations. This website gives a fantastically detailed insight into the entire process and the many, much more intriguing designs that were rejected along the way. Generally, you will find that early designs tried to focus a lot on re-usability. What came out was just a very complicated, almost completely not re-usable rocket with a gigantic, heavy, fragile, plane-shaped capsule strapped onto it.

Early Space Shuttle

Early Space Shuttle concept. Note that every part of the system is re-usable. The booster rockets are shuttles themselves. They are all based on the same design to reduce the number of replacement parts.

Of course, that huge capsule sure had it’s advantages. The vital Hubble Mission and the ISS wouldn’t be possible without it. But the maintenance costs were pretty much sucking away all the NASA Budget for years. I do hope that we will see an increased interest in the robotic exploration of our Solar System now that the Shuttle is going away. It is a much cheaper and incredibly effective way to go where no man has gone before.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “Final Discovery”

  1. Christopher von Bronsart

    interesting how burt rutan got it right with his designs for virgin galactic:

    the carrier and the spaceship share the same design principles so that it is possible to train certain (space-) flight patterns in the carrier plane.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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