posted on Jul, 29 2005 @ 07:31 AM
Well, 2.5 years doesn't seem to hasty to me; government red tape and NASA's administrative swamp is the problem here.
Consider this perspective regarding shuttles and the military:
"NASA has spent 2.5 years and an estimated $14B maintaining the overall Shuttle program while trying to 'fix' a backlog of faults.
And now despite spending billions in federal space funding we are right back where we started, with another Shuttle crew having narrowly escaped
another shower of foam fragments. Several of these fragments even came off in almost exactly the same place as that which doomed Columbia.
Today, the dwindling army of Shuttle cheerleaders are talking about yet more studies, yet more safety upgrades, yet more money and time dumped into
this gaping black hole. We should ignore them.
There simply is no modification or upgrade that can make the Shuttle system acceptably safe from debris strikes. The original design decision to place
a fragile heatshield alongside a foam-covered cryogenic tank and fly them at supersonic speeds was wrong. The whole history of aerospace craft tells
us that this kind of basic design error can never be fixed by retrospective band-aid modifications.
And why bother? The only thing we can get in return for the $25-30B now budgeted for Shuttle operations between now and 2010 is more heartache and
more delays in the new space initiative. Every day that Shuttle cancellation is put off, another $15,000,000 is wasted and the return of humans to the
moon is delayed by another day.
The only reason left to fly the Shuttle is to finish the International Space Station. But simple arithmetic tells you that it is not capable of doing
this task. The original ISS assembly plans call for 28 more Shuttle missions before compulsory retirement on 30 September 2010. Even before the fiasco
of RTF-2, Mike Griffin had stated that there will be only 16 to 20 more Shuttle missions. With the rumored 1-year delay imposed by making even more
safety improvements, this number shrinks to 12-16.
There has been much talk of shifting some of the ISS assembly load to Progress, ATV, and HTV. But it is unlikely that the production rate of these
vehicles and their launchers could be rapidly increased enough to carry the mass allocated to those ~14 cancelled Shuttle missions. In any case, none
of these vehicles is capable of carrying major ISS components (or even the standard experiment rack).
It is thus inevitable that the "final" configuration of the ISS will lack many of the major elements now planned. Even after you omit the useless
politically inspired hardware like the viewing cupola, there is still too much ISS hardware stacked up in warehouses. Either some lab modules or the
solar panels needed to power them will have to be omitted from the "completed" ISS.
And after 30 September 2010, there is no possibility of supporting the station and its 6-person crew. If you didn't believe my back-of-the-envelope
calculation two years ago, there is now an elaborate NASA study that comes to the same conclusion. Of course this is no accident; Shuttle and Station
were designed as technical Siamese Twins so that each is totally dependent on the other.
Clearly, the ISS is only a planetary-wide public works project and can never become a working space laboratory. How can we possibly ask our astronauts
to assume a %2 risk of death per flight for this idiotic project?
To put this number in perspective, the combat loss rate of the most dangerous American WWII aircraft (B-17) was only %1.61. The peacetime operations
of the Space Shuttle are more dangerous than wartime missions against the most efficient enemy air force the USA has ever faced!
But the important comparison is in the loss rate of crews. On average, about 8 men from each 10-man B-17 crew survived the loss of their aircraft by
parachuting or riding a crippled plane down to a belly landing. So the risk of death was only about %0.3 per mission.
But the Space Shuttle has no escape system, due to fundamental technological problems that apply to all winged spaceplanes. NASA has given up trying
to design such a system because the task is impossible. There are very few scenarios in which crews could survive the loss of the vehicle.
So the ugly truth is that every time that NASA launches astronauts on the Shuttle, they face a risk of death that is SIX TIMES HIGHER than that of
combat aircrews in the most dangerous aircraft in the most intense air war ever fought!
By approving the launch of another seven astronauts in a vehicle that he himself has called "fundamentally flawed", Mike Griffin has already waded
into the same moral swamp that swallowed up the Japanese admirals and generals of 1944-45 who ordered pilots to fly suicide missions for a year after
any rational hope of winning the Pacific War had vanished. He needs to turn around right now and wade back out again.
The right thing for those Japanese officials to do in July 1944 would have been to tell Emperor Hirohito: "We were wrong to start this war. Going on
with it will only waste more money and kill more of our best and brightest youth for no purpose. We should stop fighting right now and take whatever
deal the Allies will give us."
The right thing for Administrator Griffin to do in July 2005 would be to tell President Bush: "We were wrong to continue on with the Shuttle and the
Station after the Cold War ended. Going on with them will only waste more money and kill more of our best and brightest youth for no purpose. We
should stop manned launches until we have developed a spacecraft that is at least as safe as the B-17 was."