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Astronauts travel in space in command modules using rockets, which also carry payloads. The payloads are delivered in the relevant orbit, and the command module returns to earth, after the rocket stages are discarded. Why did we need the shuttle then?

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  • $\begingroup$ The question has fact based answers, and does not need answers that are primarily opinion-based. The close vote for "primarily opinion-based" doesn't make sense. "Why did we need the shuttle then?" can be, and has been answered without opinion. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 7 '18 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ when those "fact based" answers are different, it suggests they may actually be opinion based @uhoh $\endgroup$ – JCRM Dec 8 '18 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM: Meh, these just seem like classic partial answers. Just because a question has multiple distinct answers does not make it close-worthy. If a great many answers were needed, or if answers needed long lists to be anywhere near complete, Too Broad would be the reason to choose. POB is only for cases where there's really no connection between expertise and voting answers up or down. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Dec 13 '18 at 3:15
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A few of the goals of the shuttle, unattainable (at that time) by command pods are:

  • Reusability, especially of the engines (the most expensive part of the rocket)
  • Lower Gs reentry
  • Bring back payloads from orbit
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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Antzi, all these three reasons seem convincing. I read somewhere that re-entry speeds of pod returning from moon is about 1.5 times that of a pod returning in the atmosphere from earth orbit. Why don't we reduce the speed to ZERO while the pod enters atmosphere , and let it fall under gravity? This will reduce the G values to a great extent. $\endgroup$ – Niranjan Dec 11 '18 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Niranjan There is no way to reduce the speed to 0, it will always be at least terminal velocity for the given altitude, which is very high at high altitudes. If you slow down, even a little bit, your pod is now on a suborbital trajectory back into the atmosphere. $\endgroup$ – Antzi Dec 11 '18 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much Antzi,.. I am 56 years old, and I am, and ever was far too eager to understand various "technologies" in different areas of science. Not only space technology. I am looking forward to such knowledge to be in touch with technology, post my "retirement" from office. Will it be possible for you to send me a mail on my personal mail ID - " nparanjpe1963@gmail.com "? While I will be posting various doubts on this site (stack..), I find it somewhat confusing to look for answers. It would perhaps be more convenient to mail the doubts on an individual level. $\endgroup$ – Niranjan Dec 11 '18 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Niranjan Proper questions should be posted on the website. If you are unsure how to search for informations, you can either formulate a question on space.meta.stackexchange.com or ask on the chat: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/9682/the-pod-bay $\endgroup$ – Antzi Dec 11 '18 at 6:17
  • $\begingroup$ This gives me the impression that asking questions about "where to find (xyz) on these two sites (space.meta and chat.stack..) would help me get the info I need to know, rather than posting a doubt on this site - "space.stack". Ok, if it is so. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Niranjan Dec 14 '18 at 10:11
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Capsules are small - one, two, then three people. Orion will seat four. The Starliner and Crew Dragon hope to seat seven.

The Orbiter seated eight, and at a pinch could seat eleven.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks JCRM, these reasons are justifying . $\endgroup$ – Niranjan Dec 11 '18 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'd say this isn't a limitation of capsules themselves, just of need and cost. So far as I know there's no engineering limitation on building a much broader capsule, should one have the launch vehicle to loft it. $\endgroup$ – Snoopy Dec 11 '18 at 20:23
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The STS had the ability to return it's payload in the event of most of the failure modes of traditional launch vehicles (unfortunately it introduced two new failure modes)

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Crew and cargo launches are usually separate, not together. The Shuttle was an effort to cut costs and increase flexibility while reusing the launch vehicle, but due to a number of factors (such as an Air Force requirement for cross range) it failed.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, I considered the "Lunar Module" as cargo, like other satellites, the LM also never returned with the Command module. Any way, other two answers also have good reasons to justify the shuttle. Thanks again. $\endgroup$ – Niranjan Dec 11 '18 at 5:40

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