Parts 2 and 3 of “A Niche in Time”


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The second and third parts of Doug Messier’s series on the history of aviation and space are now available:

Part 2 describes how the Hindenberg crash ended the lighter-than-air airship industry, while Part 3 describes how the Columbia accident led to the end of the space shuttle. He then compares them both, noting their similarities.

Not surprising to me, the main common thread that sustained both of these failed concepts was the desire of a government to build and fly them, regardless of their cost and practicality. Messier’s comparison between airships and airplanes highlights this well. Airplanes were cost effective and could easily be made profitable. Airships were neither. They existed because Hitler wanted them.

The same can be said for the space shuttles, and for Constellation and SLS/Orion today.

Anyway, read both articles above. They are nicely written, very informative, and provide important lessons about history that we would be wise to educate ourselves about before we attempt to make our own history in the future.

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One comment

  • Diane Wilson

    Thanks for posting these. Looking forward to finding time to read them.

    For those of us who design and build stuff, reading well-documented and thorough accident investigations is immensely informative, and helps form better approaches to design, construction, and evaluation/test. Most aircraft and space accidents can fall under the heading of “complex systems fail in complex ways,” and failure is certainly an unforgiving teacher. I followed the Columbia investigation closely, and there were so many contributing factors; fixing almost any single one of them might have been enough to prevent the loss of spacecraft and lives. Commercial airline crash investigations from NTSB and BEA are also fascinating reading.

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