Shuttle will end in 2010

by | Apr 17, 2009 | Seradata News | 3 comments

sts-5 approach sunset 117kb.jpg

credit NASA / caption: On 16 November 1982 Columbia approaches Edwards AFB bringing to an end STS-5

This story by space.com focuses on the prospects of US astronauts flying on China’s Shenzhou spacecraft but what is more important in Hyperbola’s opinion is the fact that president Barack Obama’s science advisor “underscored,” according to space.com, the fact that it is the Obama administration’s “intention” to retire Shuttle in 2010

The comments reflect recent articles about the activation of the 30 April sunset clause for suspension of Shuttle retirement activities, which was in the NASA authorisation act 2008, and Lockheed Martin telling Hyperbola at the National Space Symposium that they had been told that come end of April the external tank dome manufacturing tooling was coming out of Michoud Assembly Facility

This blog has expressed the opinion that the political status of Florida as a key electoral state would mean that the prospect of thousands of job losses due to Shuttle – 28,000 jobs says Orlando Sentinel, of which 10,000 are direct jobs according to ex-Shuttle astronaut and Boeing space exploration systems vice president Bewster Shaw – could only mean an extension of the reusable spaceplane. NASA even studied the prospect

And if I believe people who tell me they are “good friends” with NASA space operations mission directorate (SOMD)  associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier then there is a “only a 10% chance” of Shuttle being stood down next year  

If true I can only assume that means that SOMD thinks it has not got a hope of flying all the remaining missions by the end of calendar year 2010 because at the moment all the indicators are that Obama does not care one jot about Florida and its fate is being sealed by a drifting space agency with no leadership, a mystery budget and the unknown unknown of a blue ribbon panel review of its core mission

To make the situation seem that much more precarious within a few days of each other the Congressional Budget Office produces some stark predications about the impact of various funding scenarios and the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) says end Shuttle sooner rather than later, the Constellation programme can’t be accelerated (contrary to various exploration systems mission directorate AA’s saying otherwise) and Commercial Orbital Transportation Services is not going to bridge any gap any how any when

At this point Hyperbola’s view is that NASA’s future is as clear as the line up of candidates to become its administrator. It would seem hard to even plan a way of bringing about a situation this bad but here it is. With apparently no Florida votes to be nurtured one wonders what parameters could be used to determine what policy the new administration will bring

In a year’s time NASA’s fate will probably be seen to have been sealed when it featured so low in the priorities of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That was an opportunity to give the agency with more authorisation act endorsed actions than it has dollars the resources to deliver what is asked of it

The horrible truth is probably that Barack Obama, who wished the International Space Station crew well not so long ago, just sees space as cool but really doesn’t give a damn  

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