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Scheduled to be retired in 2010, the shuttle fleet could operate to 2011

Even though the current generation of space shuttles faces retirement by NASA next year, there is still a remote possibility a one-year reprieve will be granted before the shuttle fleet is finally retired.

The U.S. House and Senate agreed on a NASA budget resolution eliminating the set 2010 shuttle retirement date, as there is growing concern over the loss of jobs and five-year gap before the next-generation Orion is ready to be launched.

The U.S. space agency is scrambling to finish construction on the ISS, though it's unsure if that goal will be accomplished.

"This budget is a significant step towards maintaining safety, minimizing the spaceflight gap, and preserving the highly skilled workforce at Kennedy Space Center and throughout Florida," according to U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas.  "Kennedy Space Center is an economic engine for our community and I will not stand idly by while these jobs are at risk."

Legislators are willing to give up to $2.5 billion towards extending the mission of space shuttles into 2011, though space experts have been concerned about possible safety issues with launching the shuttles several more times.  There are nine manned missions left, including eight more missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and one final mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

In 2004, the Bush administration ordered NASA to finish construction of the International Space Station (ISS) and officially retire the shuttle by September 30, 2010.  Since then, however, there has been a lot of confusion and talk about shuttle retirement, and the confusion will likely occur into 2010.

Some politicians expressed concern over the estimated five-year gap between the shuttle retirement and Orion's completion, in which NASA will have to rely on the Russian Space agency to ferry astronauts and supplies to the ISS.

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Has always been risky
By FITCamaro on 5/6/2009 8:50:04 AM , Rating: 2
The only reason they want to kill the shuttle in 2010 instead of waiting until Orion is done is because they don't want the chance of another shuttle accident on the news. Because then all the safety "experts" turn the blame on the politicians for continuing the program.

Of course with today's media and Obama in office, it would once again somehow be Bush's fault.

Space flight is risky. It has always been risky. It will always be risky. At least until we have ships comparable to something out of Star Trek which can take off, go into space, and come back all in a controlled manner.

RE: Has always been risky
By Kode on 5/6/2009 9:22:23 AM , Rating: 5
It's very true that space flight is risky, but all the people involved know the risks, especially the astronauts. It's still their choice to go into space.

I always think it should be NASA's choice to go to space or to shutdown the spaceshuttle program, not some politicians.

Ships like in startrek are still far away unfortunaly...But the day we have those, there probably will be other problems...

RE: Has always been risky
By FITCamaro on 5/6/2009 9:37:35 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly. For STS-114, the first flight after the Columbia accident, the astronauts going up even said they knew it was risky and always had been. And they said they accepted that risk and wanted to go.

RE: Has always been risky
By ipay on 5/6/2009 3:36:58 PM , Rating: 2
Say what you like about the Shuttle, but nearly three decades since its first flight and it's still going strong. Three decades, and there's still nothing that can do what the Shuttle is capable of.

The problems with the Shuttle program (i.e. loss of 2 crews and orbiters) are directly attributable to people, not technology, problems. The Challenger incident could have been prevented and with a little foresight, Columbia would still be around as well.

And with a little more funding over the years, maybe NASA would have been able to continue development and reengineering of the Shuttle that could have allowed it to remain the world's premier space launch vehicle. But I guess companies that are functionally bankrupt and have fundamentally flawed business models (re: producing shitty vehicles that no-one wants) are more deserving.

The USA's neglect of its space program is tragic, shameful, and sadly representative of the country's decline as a global superpower.

RE: Has always been risky
By TA152H on 5/6/2009 9:27:57 AM , Rating: 3
It's particularly risky, and expensive, when you're flying an obsolete piece of crap.

Back 10 years ago, I worked with a company that designed jet engines, and worked with NASA (Our group did not, but I would hear snippets about it, from our Florida group). Even then, the Shuttle was considered obsolete and held in a certain disdain. I can't even imagine how it's viewed now.

Then again, I'm not comfortable depending on Russians for anything, especially with lives at stake. What a public relations nightmare that would be for us, especially since the commies, errr, Russians would definitely get some play time out of it. With their new attitude, I do not believe we should do anything of any long term cooperative nature, at least from a point of weakness. We certainly should not be doing anything to increase their prestige in the world.

They are on their own path now, trying to rekindle whatever glory they think they had with communism. That they can not pull it off is obvious, except to them. Somehow they do not understand they lost huge amounts of territory, people, and economic resources. They lost an arm and leg, and still think they are world class athletes, when even in their prime they were half the size of their competitor.

RE: Has always been risky
By FITCamaro on 5/6/2009 9:39:21 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah and I worked at Kennedy for a summer. It may be old but its what we have. And it's better than relying on Russia.

And I'd still take a 30 year old shuttle to Orion which is a step backwards.

RE: Has always been risky
By Spivonious on 5/6/2009 9:52:38 AM , Rating: 2
Totally agree. Whatever happened to the results of the Ansari X Prize? I thought the whole point of that thing was to get a replacement for the shuttles.

RE: Has always been risky
By MrPeabody on 5/6/2009 10:30:44 AM , Rating: 2
Check out Bigelow Aerospace, SpaceX, and Scaled Composites when you get a chance. These guys are playing their cards relatively close to the vest, but there is every indication that progress is being made.

Genesis I & II are particularly interesting.

RE: Has always been risky
By Yeco on 5/6/2009 3:58:39 PM , Rating: 2
The X price was for the first private company to reach space two times within one week, so this has nothing to do with NASA. Their goal is space tourism.

RE: Has always been risky
By Spivonious on 5/6/2009 4:47:17 PM , Rating: 2
But wouldn't it make sense for NASA to at least look at what the private companies were able to do? Going back to a rocket-based vehicle doesn't make any sense.

RE: Has always been risky
By Bubbacub on 5/6/2009 6:35:04 PM , Rating: 2
the space shuttle IS a rocket (only disguised as a spaceplane). there is nothing conceptually different between it and a normal (cheaper and more reliable) multistaged rocket except that the capsule has wings to glide down instead of a parachute. it looks better on TV and gives you the fairly useless ability to bring a largish payload down to earth - other than that there is nothing wonderful about it. all it does is eat a huge pork wage bill every year and carry a fifth of the cargo that saturn v could carry with little to no cost savings.

RE: Has always been risky
By AstroGuardian on 5/7/2009 6:04:50 AM , Rating: 2
What the hell are you talking about? Your anger towards the Russians does not make you any better than them.

The Russians are and have always been better in space technology that Americans. Further more the have the balls to do that unlike you! Remember the rocket engines? The no.1 thing in every space vehicle? Where is NASA and where is Russia with space engines?

Nasa is just a pupil to Russian space agency

RE: Has always been risky
By phxfreddy on 5/7/2009 4:18:23 PM , Rating: 2
Pupil? That was a russian flag I saw on the lunar lander? I must be colorblind.

RE: Has always been risky
By gregpet on 5/8/2009 1:44:15 PM , Rating: 2
Is this a joke? When was the last time Russia even redesigned their capsule or rocket - like 50 years ago? There is the before mentioned moon landings and how many space telescopes have they put in space and how many rovers have they landed on Mars? Idiot....

RE: Has always been risky
By EntreHoras on 5/6/2009 9:35:31 AM , Rating: 2
Space flight is risky. It has always been risky. It will always be risky. At least until we have ships comparable to something out of Star Trek which can take off, go into space, and come back all in a controlled manner.

We should be able to have the Space Elevator sooner than the USS Enterprise.

RE: Has always been risky
By Bubbacub on 5/6/2009 6:54:14 PM , Rating: 3
thing is in the cold war there was a pressing military need for the development of rocket technology. after sputnik and gagarin there was a pressing national (nation in question being the USA) need for manned space exploration to maintain/win in the international pissing contest that was the cold war. in the face of these national needs it was reasonable at the time to sacrifice a few lives in developing rockets if it saved time.

Now there is no urgent political need for space exploration. Given these political dimensions it seems tragic indeed for anyone to die needlessly. if a particular type of space technology is delayed a few years and few lives saved then that PR wise is the smart move.

Nasa have played this one quite smartly - they can put all the blame of a future crash on the politicians.

p.s. i think a good international backup solution would be the ATV capsule that the ESA launched last year. totally automated and self docking and it can be launched nicely from the ariane V rocket. it just needs its cargo pod changed for something smaller and heat shielded. the ESA seems to be very keen on going ahead with this.

p.p.s whilst russian bluster and post cold war animosity remains you have to applaud them for their design of the soyuz capsule. its been pretty reliable had a relatively cheap expendable launching system and has stood the test of time nicely.

Selfish astronomers
By borowki2 on 5/6/2009 11:37:21 AM , Rating: 2
Can't they not just wait for the Hubble's successor? The universe will still be there in a few years. The new one will be a quantum leap over Hubble, I'm sure. Why risk lives just so that they can keep seeing nice pictures in the meantime?

RE: Selfish astronomers
By 91TTZ on 5/6/2009 2:52:19 PM , Rating: 2
Can't they not just wait for the Hubble's successor?

There is no real successor for the Hubble. There will be a different space telescope, but it won't do what Hubble does. There were a bunch of large space telescopes launched, but they each have different missions.

Hubble- visible light
Compton- gamma rays
Chandra- X rays
Spitzer- infrared

The replacement will be the James Webb, but it operates in the infrared.

RE: Selfish astronomers
By Yeco on 5/6/2009 4:08:08 PM , Rating: 2
The successor is the James Webb telescope, but then you wouldn't have a clear eye on the universe for five years. Besides if you can do the job, why don't? It will be a major boost for NASA if they pull this one off!!

RE: Selfish astronomers
By borowki2 on 5/6/2009 8:53:34 PM , Rating: 2
That's just stating the obvious: If they don't fix the Hubble, then astronomers won't have a telescope with its capability for a few years. That's not an argument to ask people to risk their lives. The only ethical argument you can make in favor of this is that some critical scientific discovery would not be made if we choose a different course and I just don't see it as being the case. Photons from distanced galaxies journey for millions, billions of years to reach our planet. What's the chance of us miss catching them because we weren't looking for five?

RE: Selfish astronomers
By TA152H on 5/7/2009 5:15:05 AM , Rating: 4
You obviously have no concept of how these telescopes are used.

There's always a huge backlog to time on them, and not having something like this out there is more than missing something that might occur in those five years, you might miss something after that because of the way time is doled out.

But, that's not really the point. We take risks every day just to get to work. People do die in accidents for something much more trivial than this. When we surrender to cowardice and fear, we are three parts dead already.

The Hubble has been an important eye for us into the Universe, and it's worth the risk. The benefits to humanity outweigh the risk to the few, much more so than my driving to get chicken nuggets and Kentucky Fried Chicken do. But, I still take that risk, as do a lot of other people.

Spaceflight Gap?
By CorrND on 5/6/2009 1:44:03 PM , Rating: 2
"This budget is a significant step towards maintaining safety, minimizing the spaceflight gap..."

What is this, Dr. Strangelove?

RE: Spaceflight Gap?
By s12033722 on 5/6/2009 3:18:51 PM , Rating: 2
Gap meaning years between when the shuttle is retred and Orion comes online, years in which we will have no manned space capability, thus a gap.

That said, while replacing the Shuttle is a good idea, arbitrarily taking it offline before we had a successor was a bad idea. Orion is also a bad idea. It's too bad they decided to kill off X-33/VentureStar instead of trying to find better solutions to the problems with the programs (particularly the composite hydrogen tank). That would have been a real shuttle replacement, not an Apollo throwback.

RE: Spaceflight Gap?
By FITCamaro on 5/6/2009 3:40:32 PM , Rating: 3
With composite technology we have developed in the past 3-4 years, we likely would have had the fuel tank problem solved and would have a functional shuttle replacement today.

Bailout! :)
By Trikat on 5/6/2009 9:27:37 AM , Rating: 3
Should've took the bailout money from GM and Chrysler and gave it to NASA/space development.

Just kind of gloating that my assumptions where GM and Chrysler would go under were correct. :)

RE: Bailout! :)
By FITCamaro on 5/6/09, Rating: -1
RE: Bailout! :)
By TA152H on 5/6/09, Rating: -1
RE: Bailout! :)
By Trikat on 5/6/2009 10:06:56 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry, my statement was unspecific.
By going under I meant bankruptcy and not liquidation. I honestly believe that neither has a really good chance of being liquidated as you have stated.
Anyways you are also quite correct in GM hasn't been forced into bankruptcy, but we shall see on the June 1 deadline if that deadline holds.
My opinion is they should not have received so much bailout funds (yes it is quite small compared to bank bailouts) and to have them go into bankruptcy earlier.
Dragging out the process only "wastes" more time and money. Maybe the outcome would have been more favorable if that happened, but the past is the past.

Side note: I am also glad to see the Fiat and Chrysler partnership going underway. It would be quite interesting to see how the Fiat expansion plays out as they have some interesting subsidiaries... :)
Still, Fiat still has the reputation of being cheap and does not hold its value well, because they are cheap and do not hold their value well.

By RoberTx on 5/9/2009 8:44:31 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, everybody knows everything.

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