The recent crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo and explosion on launch three days earlier of an Antares rocket further underline the dangers of inserting nuclear material in the always perilous space-flight equation--as the U.S. and Russia still plan.
"SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly," Virgin Galactic tweeted after the spacecraft, on which $500 million has been spent for development, exploded on October 31 after being released by its mother ship. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/31/us-space-crash-virgin-factbox-idUSKBN0IK2GO20141031 One pilot was killed, another seriously injured. Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic founder, hoped to begin flying passengers on SpaceShipTwo this spring. Some 800 people, including actor Leonard DiCaprio and physicist Steven Hawking, have signed up for $250,000-a-person tickets to take a suborbital ride. SpaceShipTwo debris was spread over the Mojave Desert in California. click here
Three days before, on Wallops Island, Virginia, an Antares rocket operated by Orbital Sciences Corp. blew up seconds after launch. It was carrying 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. The cost of the rocket alone was put at $200 million. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2810128/Ready-liftoff-Nighttime-rocket-launch-International-Space-Station-visible-East-Coast.html NASA, in a statement, said that the rocket "suffered a catastrophic anomaly." http://www.nasa.gov/content/frequently-asked-questions-on-antares-launch-anomaly/ The word anomaly, defined as something that deviates from what is standard, normal or expected, has for years been a space program euphemism for a disastrous accident.
"These two recent space 'anomalies' remind us that technology frequently goes wrong," said Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. www.space4peace.org "When you consider adding nuclear power into the mix it becomes an explosive combination. We've long been sounding the alarm that nuclear power in space is not something the public nor the planet can afford to take a chance on."We're not going anywhere unless we move beyond current chemical rockets. Currently used chemical rockets are basically sophisticated Roman candles, NOT sufficient for solar system expansion. However, nuclear rockets CAN and MUST be engineered to fail safe specifications for worst case scenarios like catastrophic launch and orbital insertion malfunctions. To read more, click here.