August 11, 2010

John Glenn: Save the Space Shuttle

John Glenn (NASA Photo)
John Glenn--the first American to orbit the Earth; U.S. Senator; Shuttle Astronaut; and exemplar of the meaning of "the Right Stuff" has a powerful message which Congress must take to heart.
  • Congress must not kill the Space Shuttle program.
  • Build the Constellation system.
  • Go to Mars.
One of the most important points made by Sen. Glenn is that the Space Shuttles are NOT worn out or unsafe.

The fact is that the Shuttle Orbiters were each designed for 100 launches, and none have exceeded 38 launches. To throw them away is to waste America's resources at a time when we need them most and to endanger the Space Station. Further, the shuttles have been constantly updated and improved over the years, and most importantly, the factors which caused the loss of the two Shuttles have been addressed. The solid booster rockets were redesigned, and careful inspection on each mission can spot any damaged or missing tiles.

More can and should be done to improve Shuttle safety; for example the new X-37, a NASA micro-shuttle given to the USAF, has far more durable tiles and composites, (http://www.airspacemag.com/space-exploration/Space-Shuttle-Jr.html) and a refit with such materials would advance safety. Replacing the solid rockets with safer liquid boosters has been proposed over the years. While the materials to repair tiles on orbit existed since 1980, it was not until after the Columbia tragedy that repair kits were installed on each Shuttle.

Read the "right stuff;" read John Glenn's report on why the shuttles must be kept in operation, as well as many other critical recommendations:
http://oncampus.osu.edu/2010/06/john-glenn-statement

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