NASA considers continuing shuttle use after 2010

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Space shuttle Discovery launching in October 2007 for mission STS-120.
Image: NASA.

Michael Griffin, administrator of the American space agency, NASA has ordered a study into considering the possibility of continuing the usage of the Space Shuttle, a space vehicle that takes astronauts to the International Space Station. The agency originally planned to retire all shuttles in 2010 after mission STS-134, but concerns over staff job losses that were created by the Space Shuttle program caused Griffin to order the study. The space crafts have been in use since 1981 and it's replacements, the Ares rockets, will not be in use until 2015 causing a 5 year gap where NASA will have no manned space flights, which is the reason the agency is considering extending usage for five more years, when the vehicles can be immediately replaced by their successors.

We want to focus on helping bridge the gap of U.S. vehicles traveling to the ISS (International Space Station) as efficiently as possible.

—John Coggeshall, manager of manifest and schedules at Johnson Space Center in Houston

The news came from a leaked email which was obtained from the Los Angeles Times. NASA officials have confirmed the email's authenticity, but have stated that it is too early to decide whether or not the shuttle use will continue.

Griffin has originally been against the continuation of the shuttle, as it would damage the funding of Project Constellation, a project that involves sending astronauts to the Moon and Mars.

If NASA chooses not to continue the space shuttle, they would rely on the Russian Federal Space Agency and their Soyuz space vehicles in the five year gap of no American space flights. To do this, they would have to purchase seats on Soyuz missions. However, because of the recent events that have transpired over the Georgia conflict, US and Russian relations have been damaged, so it is believed unwise to work with the Russian agency.