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ISScapades: The Crippling of America's Space Program (Apogee Books Space) [Paperback]

Donald A. Beattie

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In 1984, President Ronald Reagan approved a program to build a space station in low-Earth orbit, he named it "Space Station Freedom". With changing administrations, the station has undergone continual redesigns and has gradually evolved into a multinational effort - the International Space Station. NASA has taken a lot of heat for cost overruns, but where does the fault actually lie? Author Donald Beattie places the blame squarely on bureaucrats and the back-seat drivers in Congress and the White House, politicians and lawyers who presume to know better than scientists and engineers. Over the years, NASA has continually been saddled with politically motivated redesigns and budget cuts while never having a clearly defined goal. Bringing Russia on board as a major partner was supposed to have two advantages: use the decades of Russian expertise in building space stations to save money; and buy American security by keeping Russian rocket scientists fully employed in peaceful endeavours. But any cost savings were consumed by the chaos within the Byzantine Russian space industry, while Russian rocket technology has already crept over into China and may now be leaking into North Korea.

The space station program has never had a recognised Mission Statement. How can you plan towards achieving an undefined goal? The current administration's rationale seems to be "we said we'd do it, so we'll finish it". Donald A. Beattie served on the Space Station Advisory Committee from 1987 to 1994. He recounts the evolution of this troubled program from the perspective of a participant and close observer who worked side by side with many of the early NASA Space Station managers. He pulls no punches in describing the political and managerial conflicts that resulted in severely compromising this major international program. This is the inside story-the escapades of the ISS program.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intelligent Guide to the International Space Station 10 July 2007
By Searcher - Published on Amazon.com
This is a first rate handbook on the history, design, cost, evolution, battles, politics, deceit, greed, and path to the space station that is on orbit today.

It is not a list of lists, or pages of numbers, but a interesting running discussion using original charts and graphs from the briefings and decision panels that constituted what happened on the way to the U.S. Space Station -- the what, why, and how -- the good, the bad, the ugly and the mean. It is straight talk, and includes many of the facts you need to find almost any point in the design process supported by its underpinnings -- highlighting the "tipping points" and the data that provides the context to understand events as part of the whole design pathway. Many will think important facts or events are omitted or distorted, and there will be disagreements with some of Beattie's interpretations, but this is bound to happen with such a complex subject. There will be some who think Beattie is thin on details about the many political problems that stalked the program, and especially the internal NASA center "turf wars" which stretched back to Apollo days, distorting the professional engineering that such a program demanded -- an undercurrent which pulled the very core of the program down to be driven by very powerful tides from the Congress and White House that distorted the orderly development of design to facilitate science within schedule, cost, etc., pulling the managers, mostly engineers, into a vortex of complexity they could not control.

-- There will be readers who will have a fit over the last chapter -- Beattie's take on what should happen to the Space Station -- in fact to the whole NASA space program -- commercialization, science researach, return to the Moon, tripping to Mars, etc., etc. But,these "conversations" and "opinions" do not detract from the book, but rather enrich it for there is plenty to debate as well as a wealth of facts and experiences to inform that detate.

This is a "tour de force" -- a monumental accomplishment of synthesis in putting all of the pieces of this gigantic multi dimensional puzzle together so it can be seen as a piece. It is an intelligent Cliff Notes on the U. S. Space Station -- its substance, its context and its wake.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too Bad the Congress Was Involved.... 8 April 2007
By Franklin H. Neal III - Published on Amazon.com
Victimized by the usual congressional ignorance and short sightedness, the ISS could have been an important next step in our spaceflight evolution. Instead, NASA did the best they could, with the ever shrinking budget thrown their way. Beattie really seems to lay it out when explaining how the original plans for the station were degraded to what we have today. The political infighting within our own government, the international politics involved, and of course the Challenger accident have all had major impacts on the design, construction, and usage of the ISS. From design changes to management changes, ISScapades takes you behind the scenes to give the reader a thorough understanding of why we are stuck with the current ISS today. There are lots of lessons to be learned, and the final chapter details some of them. This is not a fluff NASA history, but a comprehensive history of what has gone on behind the scenes of the ISS.
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