Los Angeles, CA, June 29, 2006 – Scuttle the Shuttle! This phrase, first used years ago by the Space Frontier Foundation, is being heard again, as the Foundation calls for NASA to end the expensive, dead-end Space Shuttle program immediately. The Foundation believes the approximately 20 billion dollars this would save between now and 2010 (when NASA has announced the program will end) should instead be used to kick-start a commercial LEO economy based on private facilities, satellite servicing, energy and resource development and other industries – in the end creating far more jobs and economic activity than the Shuttle program.
“We have said it before, and we will say it again. It is time to step out of the past and into the future of space transportation. The Shuttle is a dead end, carrying payloads to finish a space station that NASA plans to bail out of in a few years anyway,” stated Rick Tumlinson of the Foundation. “The billions now being wasted should be used to catalyze a NewSpace transportation market that could carry both government explorers and regular people at a fraction of what we are spending today. It is time for NASA to learn to buy the ride, not the rocket!”
The Space Shuttle program consumes approximately five billion dollars a year whether or not it flies a single mission. Most of these funds go to support the so-called “standing army” of NASA and aerospace employees dependent on the Shuttle for their jobs. If all goes according to plan, twenty billion dollars will be spent between now and the last Shuttle flight. Meanwhile, NASA’s much-ballyhooed Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) project meant to create a new and varied humans-to-space transportation industry using the space station as a customer is spending only $500 million to spark the development of new low-cost systems with none at all allocated to purchase rides.
“We are spending the same amount of money every six weeks to not fly Space Shuttles as we are investing in the entire NewSpace industry. We are mortgaging our future while starving these incredibly talented and promising new companies and ideas, all to sustain a system that has completely failed,” Tumlinson said. “It is time to get the U.S. government out of the ‘Earth to space transportation market’. They may have pioneered it, but they are incapable of operating efficiently there – and it’s not their job. Let’s give the NewSpace companies, like those who have stepped up to offer their rocket ships in the COTS program, a real shot.”
The Foundation points to the COTS program as an example of NASA doing the right thing, and wants to see it greatly expanded. The group is also calling for the U.S. government to offer basic payload delivery contracts to multiple firms as a means of kick-starting a new space economy, much like airmail contracts were used to help the early airline industry. And it sees all players, old and new, participating in this market.
“We can waste the taxpayer’s money propping up old systems, or we can invest that money to create new ones that promise far larger returns for the nation, in terms of jobs, wealth and exploration,” Tumlinson continued. “The current approach stifles innovation and opportunity for NewSpace and old aerospace firms alike.”
He concluded: “As Commander Steve Lindsey and his crew blast off into space, they carry our hopes, dreams and prayers. Let’s make their heroism stand for something more than a few thousand government-supported jobs in the right Congressional districts. Let’s build something we can all be proud of – an expanding frontier in space.”