On Wednesday, NASA said that the fuel tank needs to be redesigned, scratching a planned launch of Atlantis in September.Of course, there's a little matter of the replacement, and that the ISS (International Space Station) was deliberately engineered to require Space Shuttle launches for it to be completed.
If the shuttle becomes too difficult to repair or too expensive to fly, many experts, former NASA engineers and members of Congress want to rethink current plans to retire the shuttle in 2010 -- and possibly even mothball the three surviving shuttles immediately.
"When your design stinks, Engineering 101 says admit your mistakes and go back to the drawing board," said retired NASA engineer Homer Hicham.
"The space shuttle is ... never going to be reliable no matter how much money, time and engineering careers your throw at it. Let's put the shuttle on the shelf right away and give engineers the gift of designing new ships to carry humans into space," he said.
Roger Pielke, director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder agrees.
"NASA is rolling the dice with the future of the US space program by continuing to hold unrealistic expectations for shuttle performance.
"If history is any guide, then we should expect that the shuttle will fly less and cost more than we think. It is unclear what would be gained by continuing to fly the shuttle rather than moving to the next phase of US space policy sooner rather than later," he said
"There is going to be no room for margin of error in terms of flying again if there is not a high level of confidence that the problems we know about are solved," said Representative Bart Gordon, leading Democrat on the House Science Committee.
His Republican counterpart, Sherwood Boehlert, who chairs the committee, said the tipping point comes when problems take too long to fix.
"Then we have to rethink everything. Maybe the shuttle will be no more," he said.
Wednesday, 17 August 2005
...for the Shuttle? From Space Daily :