Will NASA Ever Get the Shuttles Back into Space?

Space.com has a great piece on the subject. It mentions fears and the new seemingly-conflicting White House task of Moon and Mars missions.

The Humpty Dumpty quote seems particularly apt.

5 replies on “Will NASA Ever Get the Shuttles Back into Space?”

  1. is says:

    Very cool article
    it’s a tough subject.

    As an American, I’m one who thinks that the U.S. should have it’s own heavy lifter no matter the cost. In addition, other entities should be relied on to foot more of the financial necessities. If the shuttles cost $1 billion to fix, the cost should be split evenly among the international partners. After all, the shuttle’s main purpose until it’s decommision date will be for completing the ISS.

    I think out-of-orbit human spaceflight needs to happen, and should not be neglected. Frankly, I see it as a matter of choosing priorities. Both the current shuttle operation/repair and design of a shuttle replacement can be funded simultaneously if we simply choose to do it. I think it’s worth the dollars.

    1. The U.S. needs to build a space plane that allows cheap transfer of humans to and from space, including the moon.
    2. The U.S. needs a new heavy lifter capable of carrying at least as much as the shuttle. Whether we get a space-tug to catch it’s cargo and move it to it’s destination, or a single pilot on the heavy lifter itself is irrelevant to me.

    With those two items, the ISS, satelite repair, and moon operations could be handled indefinitely. It would also allow preparation and in-orbit building of outer-space vehicles.

  2. LC says:

    Definitely we need shuttles–but when?
    Definitely the US should have vehicles that can carry all kinds of loads into space. It’s an economic imperative as well as a scientific and technological one.

    However, given NASA’s culture and history, I find it hard to believe that they should be manned vehicles at this point. NASA is not a safety-oriented culture and depp-rooted organizational cultures don’t change.

    What I’d do is call a two-year moratorium on US shuttle trips and ask other participant nations with shuttles to do the servicing the ISS needs during those two years. During those two years, I’d give the majority of R&D attention to building shuttles that can perform the majority of tasks that the manned shuttles do; I’d guess that that would be about 85-95 percent of them, given the growth of robot technology and research.

    During this time, I’d also run a thorough cultural overhaul, one emphasizing safety and putting getting it right before making more or less arbitrary deadlines and that would make sure that all systems reinforce those priorities.

    After the two years, then I’d use everything we learned from that, plus any other developments in other areas of relevant technology, to build one or two shuttles optimized for carrying humans, so we could resume those flights, and also to protyping safe vehicles for manned and unmanned moon trips. I’d expect those to be built over the next three years or so.

    If I ran the zoo…

    • GrimSean says:

      Re: Definitely we need shuttles–but when?

      What I’d do is call a two-year moratorium on US shuttle trips and ask other participant nations with shuttles to do the servicing the ISS needs during those two years.

      That would be who, exactly?

      Russia has pods, but they scrapped their shuttle program before it even got off the ground. We Canucks are too far north to launch to equatorial orbits (though if I remember correctly we could do polar orbits – we just don’t have the money and we prefer to cooperate with other nations anyway). The EU can do launches, but they don’t have a Shuttle/Pod, and given their track record with satellites, I would be stunned if someone would risk the trip if they did the launch. China is doing their own thing, and India and Pakistan seem more interested in launching missiles with warheads rather than missiles with humans. Japan does satellites, but I think their humans-in-space program is limited to their fiction. Have I missed anyone?

      Personally, I think in an ideal world space exploration would be a world wide, shared responsibility. Unfortunately, I don’t think we live in a world like that, and my sole remaining hope is that China can spark a (peaceful) Space Race 2. The ISS is a step in the right direction; it’s just unfortunate that it’s completely useless for anything other than microgravity experiments due to its orbit. Someone should have questioned the idea of a permanent space station in an orbit that decays.

    • Daemonik says:

      Re: Definitely we need shuttles–but when?

      However, given NASA’s culture and history, I find it hard to believe that they should be manned vehicles at this point. NASA is not a safety-oriented culture and depp-rooted organizational cultures don’t change.

      Not a safety oriented culture?? Dude, these guys x-ray every solder joint on their electronics boards and god help you if you leave some flux behind. Everything they put into space is inspected and reinspected and then reinspected. Parts take decades to run through the certification process which can lead to things like brand new space craft using 386 pre Pentium processors. When something like a shuttle explosion happens it’s not due to lack of safety precautions but bad procedures in the precautions.

      NASA’s main problem is it’s highly cellular, insulated culture where knowledge that’s earned on one mission is not dissiminated outside of that group. New mission teams are created, start reinventing wheels that were solved in the 60’s then get broken up and start over again. NASA simply has to learn how to retain its knowledge pool and act more like a civilian company rather than a government sinkhole.

      Which leads to NASA’s second worst problem. NASA is a political foil with projects being initiated with no extra funding, or being canceled for no discernable reason (usually because some Senator’s home state wasn’t getting a slice of the pork) and otherwise jerked around by a Legislature with no short or long term space goals other than a “Let’s go there” whim and an apathetic populace that thinks space is nice but call them when ET shows up with transporters and warp drives.

      Personally, I think companies like Scaled Composites and Armadillo Aerospace are the best hopes that we’ll ever see large scale commercial utilization of space.

  3. vanyel says:

    Wusses
    If NASA cancels the shuttle entirely, I think NASA itself should be cancelled. It would be clear that they no longer have the drive required for exploration. Maybe the Russians or the Chinese can pick up where we leave off. We Americans can stay here in our safe cocoon picking fights with the rest of the world while they provide for the future of the human race.

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