Los Angeles, July 9, 2003 – The Space Shuttle system should be retired, and all further investments in the Shuttle ended, argued the non-profit Space Frontier Foundation today.
“A growing consensus in Congress and the space community affirms that the Shuttle system is hopelessly inadequate to our needs and cannot be made safe or affordable,” stated the group’s founder, Rick Tumlinson. “It’s time for the venerable Space Shuttles to make way for the improvement in safety, innovation, and competitive pricing that would occur if the private sector were to be given the chance to do for space travel what commercial aviation has done for air travel.”
The Foundation points out that while NASA spends billions maintaining and flying the Space Shuttles, a new generation of privately funded commercial spaceship firms has sprung up to fly people on sub-orbital flights, conceivably for mere hundreds of thousands of dollars per ticket. Rather than continuing to waste taxpayer funds, the group believes an era of commercial orbital space flight could be in the making, if the government would nurture it using the money currently spent on government-only space systems.
“NASA should not be in charge of designing, building and operating what is essentially a glorified space truck/bus,” added Tumlinson. “Imagine if the government had done the same thing with an airline. With no competition it would never get cheaper, better or more efficient…and no one would be able to afford to fly on it. That’s the socialist monopoly we have in space flight. It has not improved safety or access and wasted billions of tax dollars.”
To begin the hand off to the private sector, NASA should be banned from developing any replacements, and should be made to examine every alternative to safely end the Space Shuttle era, including ending Shuttle flights upon completing the international “core” of the International Space Station (ISS); flying the Shuttle using its remote control systems in the meantime; and/or mothballing the ISS until commercial LEO transportation becomes available.
“None of the Shuttle’s capabilities are indispensable,” argued Tumlinson, “and the ISS should not be used as an excuse to keep flying it at the risk of more astronauts’ lives. If needed, the Russians can keep it going, or it can be mothballed until it can be taken over by a private Space Port Authority, and then operated, serviced and expanded by private spaceships and cargo vehicles. Now is exactly the right time for a change that can eventually open space to the people who have paid for it all.”