The space shuttle wasn’t like anything before it,
it was the first reusable spacecraft
and it promised to make travel into space
可负担 安全的 几乎司空见惯的活动
affordable, safe, almost routine.
So by the 1970’s, America abandoned expendable rockets,
which could only be used once,
and went all in on space shuttles, Building the Columbia,
挑战者号 发现号 亚特兰提斯号 暴风雪号 奋进者号
the Challenger,the discovery, the Atlantisthe Buran and the Endeavour.
Wait a minute, this is not one of the space shuttles.
在1988年 世界上才得知 苏联也有一架航天飞机
In 1988, the world learned that the Soviet Union also had a space shuttle.
They had been secretly developing it for well over a decade,
and it had cost them billions.
But maybe you’ve never heard of it,
and that wouldn’t be too surprising,
because the Soviet Space Shuttle onlyever launched once.
But it’s not because it was flawed.
Actually its first launch was a huge success
and in a lot of ways, it was actually more capable and robust than the American space shuttle.
But after its first launch, the Soviet shuttle seems to have just disappeared.
And to understand why, you need to go back to the late 1960’s.
That’s when the Soviets would have learned that the Americans were planning to replace
their conventional rockets with a new reusable spacecraft.
But at first the Soviets wouldn’t have been concerned.
毕竟 他们已经在自行研究 可重复使用的宇宙飞船和航天飞机了
After all,they had done their own research into reusable spacecraft and space planes.
And the Soviets were pretty busy with other space projects.
They were still in the race to put a man on the moon,
they had ambitious plans for a space station, even a potential moon base.
But by 1975 the mood had changed,
the Soviets had grown paranoid that the American space shuttle
might also be used as a space weapon.
Soviet research institutes studied the shuttle program
and what they found was that the publicly stated goals of the program,
well, just didn’t line up with what the Americans were actually building.
For one, the shuttle promised to make getting into space cheaper.
But the Soviets could clearly see that the shuttle’s launch costs
were actually going to be higher than the Rockets it was supposed to replace.
And the shuttle program promised an incredible 60 launches a year,
giving the Americans the ability to get a lot of material into orbit –
ten times more than they had been previously able to.
And yet there was nothing in NASA’s plans
that called for so many launches.
The space shuttle’s commercial and scientific goals
were starting to look like a smokescreen
for what was likely a military program.
The Soviets suspected that the shuttle could be used to launch something like,
say, a laser weapon into orbit,
test it, then bring it back down to earth for further development.
With a shuttle type craft,
the Americans could militarize space a lot quicker than the Soviets.
The shuttle could even be used to capture a Soviet spy satellite
and bring it back down to earth for study.
And to compound Sovietfears, they discovered that the Americans
were quietly building a second launch sitefor the shuttle
at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
And here’s thething with Vandenberg,
launch the shuttle from there and by its first orbit
it’s over all the major population centers of the Soviet Union.
So the shuttle could intheory deliver a nuclear first-strike
faster than any Soviet nuclear deliverysystem.
The Soviet military pushed hard for the Soviet Union
to start developing its own space shuttle,
but few involved in the Soviet space program
actually wanted a shuttle type craft.
But four years after the Americans began working on the space shuttle,
the Kremlin quietly gave the go-ahead
to start developing a Soviet counterpart
The Soviet Union’s space shuttle would be called Buran
and its research and development would be kept a closely guarded secret for years.
When the Americans first launched the Space Shuttle on April 12 1981,
which awkwardly enough was the 20th anniversary of
the Soviets launching the first man into space,
the Soviet media was scathing.
They blasted the Americans for putting in military craft into space
and they reminded viewers that the Soviet Union’s space program
was for the betterment of science and humanity.
Very few Soviet citizens would have known that
their own government wassecretly developing a similar shuttle.
There’s no way around it the Buran looked a lot like the American Space Shuttle,
and it’s got nothing to do with aerodynamic or thermodynamic laws.
The goal had been to build something
that could match the military potential of the Space Shuttle
and with a lot of information about the American Space Shuttle
freely available andunclassified,
it’s not hard to imagine what happened next.
But here’s the thing, the Soviets already knew a thing or two about getting into space,
so they didn’t just copy the shuttle,
they might have designed a better Space Shuttle
首先 航天飞机与暴风雪号进入太空的方式 有着巨大的区别
First, there’s a big difference in how the Space Shuttle and the Buran actually get into space.
The Space Shuttle’s orbiter uses integrated reusable main engines
which are fueled by an external tank.
But because the main engines were not powerful enough to put the Shuttle into orbit,
it also needed the help of two expendable solid rocket boosters.
But the Buran didn’t have integrated engines,
all of its lifting power was provided by a separate super-heavy rocket called Energia.
It consisted of a core stage and fourboosters.
Unlike the Space Shuttle, which was a single system,
the Buran orbiter and it’s lifting Rockets were actually two separate systems.
While the Shuttlewith its integrated engines was more reusable,
in practice it requiredintensive maintenance between launches,
which offset a lot of its advantage, butonce in space
the Shuttle’s integrated engines nolonger serve the purpose.
So for most of the Shuttle’s mission,
it was forced to haul around thousands of pounds of dead weight.
This meant that the Buran could carry slightly more payload than the Space Shuttle,
but more importantly the Soviet system had a massive advantage:flexibility.
The Energia rocket could launch by itself without the Buran attached,
and that meant it could carry other things into space.
Without the Buran, the Energia rocket could launch an astounding 100 tons.
That’s three Space Shuttles worth oflifting power.
The Space Shuttle’s first stage uses solid rocket boosters.
The Energia’s are liquid fueled.
The thing with solid rocket boosters is, once they’re started,
there’s simply no way to shut them off.
The Energia’s liquid-fueled rockets could be throttled up down
or even shut off completely in an emergency.
And in an emergency, the Buran had ejection seats for the entire crew,
which could function while on the launch pad or all the way up to 20 miles.
Only the first two shuttles had ejection seats
and only for two crew members.
Later shuttles had no ejection seats at all.
From the outset the Buran was also capable of fully automated flight,
meaning it could be launched, put into orbit,
and returned back to earth without any crew on board.
Automated flight could have been used for rescue missions
and an empty Buran could be sent up to
rescue the crew of a space station or another stranded orbiter.
The Buran’sfirst launch was on November of 1988.
The western media was impressed.
Especially by it’s fully automatic landing system.
On that autumn day in 1988 the future of Soviet space flight –
at least from an outsider’s perspective – looked promising.
The media speculated that the Buran
would be used to build space stations,
or maybe to assemble a spacecraft for a manned mission to Mars.
Of course none of that ever happened
the Buran was only launched once.
In the late 1980’s the Soviet Union began to collapse,
随之而来的 暴风雪号的研究经费受限 并最终整个被砍掉
And with it funding for the Buran was limited, and eventually cut off entirely.
Tough questions started rolling in about the program.
Soviet engineers had done a fine job,
but the entire program was startingto look absurdly expensive.
Like the American Space Shuttle,
the Buran was costly and inefficient,
but unlike the Americans, the Russians still had otherways to get into space.
A soyuz rocket could launch payload into orbit
six times cheaper than a Buran.
But if the Soviet Union hadn’t collapsed, well,
we might imagine Burans being used to assemble orbital space stations,
or spacecraft for missions to other planets.
Or maybe not. The Soviets had been so paranoid about the military potential of the American Shuttle
they wanted their own matching system.
But that goal quickly became pretty much the only goal.
In the final days of the Soviet Union,
when it was clear that the American shuttle had no meaningful military potential,
the Soviet military no longer wanted anything to do with the Buran,
苏联的太空事业只剩下了 一个昂贵 复杂
and the Soviet space community was left with a spacecraft that was expensive, complex,
and largely without a real purpose.