A Shuttle Hugger's Lament

This week John Glenn, a former US Senator and the first American to orbit our world , weighed in on the great debate that has been raging since the announcement that NASA’s Constellation lunar program may be going the way of the Dodo bird.

One of the points Glenn raised was the retirement status of the Space Shuttle and should it remain in service. In a statement he wrote, Glenn urged to keep the Shuttle fleet flying until a replacement is brought on line:

“The (Space Shuttle is) world's only heavy lift spacecraft and the U.S.'s only access to space should stay in operation until suitably replaced by a new and well tested heavy lift vehicle. The Shuttle system is working extremely well, has had systems upgrades through the years, and has had "the bugs" worked out of it through many years of use. The Shuttle is probably the most complex vehicle ever assembled and flies in the harshest of environments. Why terminate a perfectly good system that has been made more safe and reliable through many years of development? The Shuttles are the world's most advanced spacecraft.”

Senator Glenn’s entire statement can be read at the University of Ohio’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs  web site:

http://glennschool.osu.edu/news/space.html

I for one would LOVE to see this happen. We should continue to fly what we have until a replacement craft is ready to take cargo and crew to the International Space Station. (ISS) It’s only logical!

Well as we all know, the world does not always work that way.

Trouble is the lobby to keep the Space Shuttle flying is fighting a losing battle. The enemy: the Space Shuttle spare parts supply line. The spigot of supplies and spare parts to keep the each one of these beautiful birds flying has been drying up since the Bush Administration announced the Shuttle program’s retirement in 2004. Trying to fly the Shuttle with this parts gap could also cause a flight gap just as long if not longer than the one we’re trying to avoid.

But don’t let ME explain it to you, I’ll let NASA’s Wayne Hale a fellow “Shuttle hugger”, tell you the tale of woe in a blog post he wrote back during the summer of 2008 called “Shutting Down the Shuttle”

http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/waynehalesblog/posts/post_1219932905350.html

So to everyone who is now shouting about the end of the Shuttle Program and the lack of US access to the ISS: Where were you guys when it was beginning to become clear that Project Constellation’s Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle along with it's Ares-1 booster were just not going to be ready in the time alotted and cause a unacceptable gap in the US human space program?

And yes, I’m looking in the mirror.