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Russia is launching the completely non-reusable Soyuz rocket about four times a year on manned missions to the ISS, and even more often if you include the Progress cargo launches, not to mention Soyuz launches for other purposes. And Roscosmos certainly doesn't get as much money as NASA had in the ninety sixties and seventies.

Of course the Saturn V is a much more powerful rocket, but instead of cancelling all flights that followed Apollo 17, why didn't NASA just decrease the frequency of Saturn V flights, such as doing one lunar flight each five years? In the time between the lunar flights, astronauts would fly to the Skylab (on the Saturn 1B) and eventually the Space Shuttle. The cancelled Constellation program followed a similar schedule: It planned to use the Orion spacecraft for both ISS flights (on the Ares I) and lunar flights (which additionally required the Ares V for launching the Altair LM). Flying to the Moon less frequently would have had another advantage: It would be something more exceptional and the public would have more interest in the lunar flight, unlike with the Apollo 13 mission prior to the malfunction.

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    $\begingroup$ The economics of flying a giant vehicle every 5 years are disastrous; look at the SLS. You can't just lay off all the engineers after a launch and hire them back 4 years later. $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble I wonder why the SLS doesn't launch more frequently. Artemis 1 was a full success. $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ If you want to fly frequently you need to go the Henry Ford route: first design a production process, build a factory to implement it, and tune the product design to the process. But the SLS is essentially a hand-built prototype, and always will be. It's that way because its purpose is to make money for campaign contributors, not to fly. $\endgroup$
    – John Doty
    Feb 22 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ Just because Soyuz and Progress capsules are launched multiple times a year doesn't mean the Soviets could have done Moon landings with anywhere near that frequency. Or matched the Apollo frequency of about two landings per year. Or even landed on the Moon at all, as there is some doubt that the spacecraft they were designing would have been capable of human landing and safe return to Earth. Comparing flights to ISS with human Moon landings is a vast difference on multiple levels. $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ "Artemis 1 was a success." When your "success" is an order of magnitude higher in cost than a more rational, better managed effort, it's the equivalent of nine failures. $\endgroup$
    – John Doty
    Feb 23 at 14:08

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Keeping all the staff and infrastructure live is very expensive, and lunar missions require a lot of specialized skills and technology. It wasn't sustainable. NASA wanted a sustainable path forward, and its leaders deluded themselves that the Shuttle would provide it. But the shuttle was a very different beast from a Saturn V.

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    $\begingroup$ Why wouldn't it be sustainable, but the Soyuz rocket is? The Soyuz rocket and spacecraft are from 1967 but they have been modified with time. Same would happen to the Saturn V, while the mostly-reusable Space Shuttle would have been flown inbetween. If those who developed Soyuz (Korolev and Glushko) and the Space Shuttle could pass down their knowledge, the knowledge about the Saturn V Apollo could also have been, couldn't it? $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ @OldManJohn Soyuz is much lower tech, not requiring much specialized manufacturing, and scaled for frequent use rather than rare stunts. $\endgroup$
    – John Doty
    Feb 22 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ As a matter of fact, the Soyuz spacecraft was designed for lunar flights, just to be tested on the modified R7 rocket first, the Soyuz (just like Apollo 7 was tested on the Saturn 1B rocket), before a modified Soyuz spacecraft (7K-LOK) would have been flown on the N1. $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ There were numerous complaints about the "standing army" of shuttle engineers with its average of 4.5 flights a year. Imagine if it had flown once every 5 years. $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ A Saturn V is ten times the size of a Soyuz launcher. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 16:19

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