Will We Ever Stop Using Rockets to Get to Space?

Space.com | 8/19/2018 | Staff
maddyb7 (Posted by) Level 3
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On March 16, 1926 in Auburn, Massachusetts, American engineer Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket. The flight lasted a mere 2.5 seconds and ended anticlimactically 181 feet away in a snow-covered cabbage field, but it would prove to be one of the most significant flights in history.

Ninety-two years later, liquid-fueled rockets are the norm for spaceflight. Towering, explosive behemoths standing sixty times taller than Goddard's original rocket blast humans beyond the boundaries of Earth's atmosphere. Each launch is a true spectacle, offering testament again and again to humankind's collective potential to transcend barriers and reach new heights through brains and cooperation.

Transportation - Space - Future - Methods - Technologies

But will rockets remain our primary transportation to space into the far flung future? Or will they eventually be replaced by new methods and technologies?

Rockets, after all, are far from perfect. Fourteen astronauts have died during launches. By chemical engineer Don Pettit's calculation, "sitting on top of a rocket is more dangerous than sitting on a bottle of gasoline!" He ought to know, he's done it a few times. Pettit has flown five missions to the International Space Station and has tallied 369 days, 16 hours, and 41 minutes in space. At age 62, he's NASA's oldest active astronaut.

Costs - Drawback - Rocket - Launches - Percent

High costs are also an unfortunate drawback of rocket launches. Since roughly 85 percent of a rocket's mass must be taken up by propellant, there's little room left for cargo. That makes booking a ticket to space exceedingly expensive – around $10,000 per kilogram to reach low-Earth orbit.

For a long time, rockets have also been inherently wasteful, their parts simply falling back to Earth, burning up on re-entry through the atmosphere, or joining the space junkyard currently orbiting our planet.

Problems - Replacements - Launches

These problems have prompted some to speculate on replacements to rocket launches. One of the most futuristic and far-fetched is the...
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