Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Space Station Solution at Hand: Political Courage Required

Surprise, surprise, folks. President Obama's "tear it down and rip it up" approach to our aerospace and science programs led to the downing of America's successful space shuttle program without a new program on the horizon.

Instead, Obama's government decided, let's abandon the proven NASA value of "redundancy" --having at least one backup for any component or requirement--and let's put all our eggs, and taxpayers' money, into the Russian basket. Great idea, that, all the syncophants lined up to intone as they genuflected.

Not a great idea, as the August 24 loss of the Soyuz rocket promptly proved. In the wake of the loss of the space station Progress resupply ship, Russia's launch calendar for manned space station flights is on the skids.

Now NASA officials are talking about the possibility that the space station will have to be abandoned. After continuous occupation since 2000, the space station, begun in 1988, might become a ghost facility, managed from the ground.

And that, my friends, is ridiculous. The International Space Station is the towering achievement of our space era, and it, as well as taxpayers, deserves more than a rolling over to Russian problems.

However, we've long since lost any command of our own space destiny. Why did we accept that? Future historians will, no doubt, have a field day discussing how and why the world's most successful space-faring nation folded its cards and slipped away from the manned space exploration table.

There is a short-term solution to save the space station as a viable, operational facility. Just stop deactivating one of the shuttles--all of which are now museum-bound--and reactivate it.

Then put a commander and pilot onboard; fly to the space station. Plan to leave those folks onboard until they can hitch a ride home via a Russian vehicle.

NASA has assured us there's adequate supplies up there until sometime in 2012. There's room up there for two more astronauts.

Give the Russians a chance to get flying again. In the meantime, there'll be another option to get the astronauts and cosmonauts home: the old, reliable space shuttle.

Should flights via the Russian vehicles resume, NASA could leave the shuttle parked at the space station in case of emergency. If needed, there's a ride home waiting right outside the door.

It would be much better to leave a shuttle at the ready at the space station than just plonk its dead body into a museum. It would provide safety redundancy for crews at the station, and, logically, would make sense.

President Obama, why not? Show some political courage, and some support for America's space achievements, and provide the direction to put one shuttle back into flight status.

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