Friday, May 13, 2005

Space Shuttle Disaster Claims More Victims

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin submitted a revised 2005 budget to Congress which cuts funding for Project Prometheus, a number of IIS research studies and postpones two advanced space telescopes and a Mars lander slated for 2009.

The costs were needed to cover budget holes opened up by a higher than expected tab for duct-taping the shuttles together and to cover the cost of a manned expedition to the Hubble space telescope, in defiance of the Columbia Accident Review Board's recommendations. Other costs include covering $400m in Congressional pork.

While the Hubble provides pretty pictures, it would be better to move and deploy replacement telescopes launched from unmanned rockets. These would provide higher quality images at a fraction of the cost and none of the danger.

The IIS is a great white elephant meant to justify the existence of the Shuttle. Little science of value is likely to come out of it especially with the station as undermanned as it is. The acclaimed commercial research has failed to materialize.

Griffin seems to know where his bread is buttered (Congress) and is playing the odds that returning the Shuttle to flight and patching Hubble will improve the program's tarnished image. In the long run, however, this is a Faustian bargain securing NASA decline for the foreseeable future.