NASA Grounds Shuttle Fleet – Again

Once again, NASA has grounded its shuttle fleet because of its inability to ensure that an obsolete vehicle from the Reagan Administration can fly safely.

NASA grounds shuttle fleet (CNN)

There will be no more shuttle launches until NASA engineers determine the effect of debris that fell from the shuttle Discovery during blastoff Tuesday, said Bill Parsons, space shuttle program manager. “We are treating it very seriously,” he told reporters. “Are we losing sleep over it? Not yet.” He added, “We will continue to do the evaluation.”

Discovery is due to return to Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 7. The date of the next planned mission had not been set.

Earlier Wednesday NASA lead flight director Paul Hill said that, based on engineers’ “first-blush” analysis of falling debris, there was “no significant problem” with the orbiting shuttle. Hill spoke to reporters after astronauts, using a robotic arm equipped with a camera and laser, spent “one hell of a day” poring over every inch of Discovery, looking for surface damage.

Although the mission had been scheduled to search for damage, concern about the issue was heightened after videotape from an array of cameras trained on Discovery during Tuesday’s liftoff showed a piece of debris falling away from the underside of the orbiter.

The problem of things falling off the shuttle has been with the program since its maiden voyage. It begs the question, however, as why we continue to spend billions trying to salvage the concept of reusable, manned vehicles when most observers think single user, unmanned platforms are the most efficient way of handling most of the shuttle’s missions.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Herb says:

    The answer to the question you posed is: There is just to much money involved with the entire NASA Bureaucracy. The size of NASA alone should tell anyone that huge amounts of waste are involved. Tell me what Government Bureaucracy does not waste money like a bunch of drunken sailors. A few years ago, I had the occasion to speak with some NASA engineers who were looking to go into other arenas of the aerospace industry when NASA was going to let some people go. All of those I talked had the same method of looking at things. The two that stood out were,

    1. We have all the time in the world to look at and solve a problem. And,

    2 Money is no object.

    Needless to say, none of them that I know of made it in the Airline Industry.

    Like I have said before, NASA is nothing more than a giant welfare agency.

    If Congress and The President had any sense about them, They would hire Burt Rutan to take on the missions of space.

  2. Cybrludite says:

    The problem is with NASA’s implimentation of the reusable manned spacecraft, not with the concept itself. We need manned flight if we’re to ever get our butts off of this rock. If we don’t, then extinction for our race is just a matter of time. (Sun will run out of hydrogen eventually…)

  3. j. blair says:

    I agree NASA is a bloated bureaucracy but the reason the shuttle still needs to fly is because it is the only method of deploying and retrieving for repair, some of the large NRO payloads (i.e. spy satellites).

  4. Michael A says:

    The space shuttle program actually dates back to the NIXON administration. http://history.nasa.gov/stsnixon.htm

  5. DC Loser says:

    I believe the DoD told NASA it was no longer going to support the shuttle program a few years back. 20 something years ago they had planned on using the shuttle to retrieve satellites but probably came to the realization they didn’t need that capability any longer. The sole purpose of the shuttle now is to build the International Space Station. NRO payloads can be and are lifted by the large unmanned rockets such as the Titan IV.

  6. jihafhion says:

    It begs the question, however, as why we continue to spend billions trying to salvage the concept of reusable, manned vehicles when most observers think single user, unmanned platforms are the most efficient way of handling most of the shuttle’s missions.

    Enough of the Bush bashing. His plan is to retire the Shuttle by 2010 and then replace them with another manned spacecraft–the Crew Exploration Vehicle which will start flying next decade.

    Then we will go back to the moon.. and after that—Mars.

    Bush has staked his presidency on reviving the space program. We will succeed. Money should be no object. Bush said it best: “We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey.”

    All of you liberals who are critical of space policy should hold the cynicism in check for a while. We need to get into space before the terrorists do.

  7. McGehee says:

    Enough of the Bush bashing.

    What’s the emoticon for “rolling my eyes”?

  8. Herb says:

    No one was bashing Bush, after all NASA goes back a long way before Bush. The point was, That NASA is nothing more than a bottomless pit that the taxpayer dumps money into, Johnson, Kennedy, and all the Presidents after them let this Money Monster grow and grow and grow,
    Like I said, NASA is a giant welfare program for many many of the people who “work” (Put their time in) there.

  9. Frank says:

    Love Herb, don’t Hate

  10. Lt bell says:

    herb is a typical christian conservative —
    he hates everything different from him!

    all i can say is thank God that the conservatives
    did not run WW 11 – in their present form or we would have lost.
    sadly- they run the government the same way they run NASA

  11. McGehee says:

    herb is a typical christian conservative — he hates everything different from him!

    Unlike you, whose love for all of us is so consistently expressed in your many comments on this site.

    Hypocrisy becomes you, LT.

  12. Jim Henley says:

    Crap. Depending on how you count, I missed World Wars 5-10 at the very least. Can I retroactively declare my opposition to each of them?