Moonships of the future will be spaceplanes. It is easier for spaceplanes to fly to the Moon than it is for spaceplanes to get into Earth orbit itself. It is even easier to fly back to Earth. Just design a single vehicle, fly it to the Moon, and fly it back -simple, operationally sound, reliable. But can it actually be done?
Is it even rational to attempt Lunar spaceflight with a winged space vehicle? After all, the added weight of wings, vertical stabilizer, landing gear, and aircraftlike structure all amount to "dead weight" that must be lifted - and accelerated - to the Moon. These arguments are undeniably sound, but they skirt the real issue, which is reusability. And, as we have seen, reusability is the key to spaceflight operations. For a space vehicle returning from the Moon to be fully reusable, it must have wings. Blunt reentry bodies such as those used in Apollo and now being developed for Orion are inadequate, because reusability, if it exists at all, is only partial. Furthermore, partial reusability requires operational complexity, and operational complexity is the bane of future space access. With this in mind, how might an operationally simple Lunar spaceplane work?
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