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John Glenn: Keep shuttles flying

When we learn that we'd spend nearly as much money hitching rides on Russian rockets, what's not to like about Glenn's suggestion?

Living legend John Glenn says America should keep flying its space shuttle fleet rather than paying Russia to haul Americans to and from the International Space Station.

The country's shuttle fleet is to be retired this year or next, leaving NASA without a spaceship of its own for years.

Glenn, who became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, told NBC News that flying the space shuttle fleet beyond its currently scheduled retirement date in November would be the best use of taxpayer dollars.

"We'll spend almost as much buying our astronauts seats on Russia's Soyuz as we would to keep the shuttles flying," Glenn said. "The cost of continuing shuttle is really very tiny compared to the $100 billion investment we've made in the station, and keeping shuttle flying, we'll have the biggest spaceship ever to carry seven [astronauts] and tons of cargo."

The 88-year-old Glenn speaks from the perspective of a seasoned politician as well as a spaceman. The Ohio Democrat served as a U.S. senator from 1975 to 1999, and made an unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1984. He flew on the space shuttle for a widely publicized mission in 1998, becoming the oldest human in orbit at the age of 77.

The retired senator-astronaut penned his concerns about America's future space effort in an eight-page open letter released on Monday.

"Why terminate a perfectly good system that has been made more safe and reliable through its many years of development?" Glenn asked.

Why?

We'd have to ask a President who abhors American exceptionalism for an answer.  Oh wait... that is the answer. 

Anything to further that abhorring.

Crossposted at Brutally Honest.


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Comments (22)

Are there any former astron... (Below threshold)

Are there any former astronauts as Congressmen or Senators? If so, Barry should keep the shuttle around for bribes. Glenn and Clinton can explain that one to him.

"We'll spend almost as much... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"We'll spend almost as much buying our astronauts seats on Russia's Soyuz as we would to keep the shuttles flying,"

But having the Russians send our stuff into space has the side benefit of putting 1000's of US workers out of their jobs.

It seems everything obama does is calculated to reduce the people of this nation to poverty.

What does the space shuttle... (Below threshold)
James H:

What does the space shuttle do for the most part these days? How much of NASA's work is for the private sector (i.e., launching satellites, etc.)?

Honestly, I'd like to see NASA get away from missions that are primarily profit-based and into missions that don't necessarily engender an immediate profit -- I'm thinking pure research, missions to moon and other planets, astronomy, that sort of thing.

The problem is James H, tha... (Below threshold)
jim m:

The problem is James H, that NASA's charter seems to be moving toward global warming research and not space exploration. Ironically, this shift is occurring after the Europeans have started to abandon their support for AGW as a result of the scandals that have plagued the UN and academic researchers on that issue.

So while the world looks to be giving up on AGW as a fraud, the US is doubling down on it.

Even if the Shuttle was carrying private industry funded research at least it was doing so using American jobs and supporting American technology development and research.

Hey, John. You were a good,... (Below threshold)
OLDPUPPYMAX:

Hey, John. You were a good, dedicated leftist while you were in office. You've neither room nor the right to complain now.

I think John Glenn is mis-s... (Below threshold)
KeithK:

I think John Glenn is mis-stating the costs. The Space Shuttle is a horribly inefficient system from a cost perspective at something like a billion dollars per launch.

As hard as it is for me to say, the Obama administration is probably making the right decision here, if for the wrong reasons. (Lord knows they don't give a crap about space development and exploration.)

Cross your fingers and hope that SpaceX is successful with their Falcon/Dragon launch this summer.

Barry, dont you think you h... (Below threshold)
914:

Barry, dont you think you have more important things on your plate then cutting more US jobs? like playing some more rounds of golf, holding a beer summitt, plugging a G.. D... hole?

Why would anyone in their ... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

Why would anyone in their right mine put all our eggs in one basket?
If the cost is similar would it not be beneficial to spend money in the US rather than foreign sources (maybe if we were taking about on England or Japan. ) esp one that constantly votes against the US in the UN and other matters.

Also look at what just happen with China. The US closed down mine which produced rear earth minerals need for Green Jobs. This was because it was cheeper to get them in China. Now China raised the price and will stop all exports by 2015. How much do you want to bet the Russian pull the same thing?

Many people argue that money spent on Space and Military should be spent on social programs. Now that they are in power we see it Billions for everything except the military and space.


How many companies have outsourced programs and found that they need to bring to the USA because low cost does not provide for quality control or customer satisfaction. Some companies found that they had to wait or buyout contracts.

My primary concern about ke... (Below threshold)

My primary concern about keeping the shuttles flying is the problem of shelf-life. We really have exceeded the original design specs on the system. Short of stripping the remaining birds down to the bones and refeathering them, I'm becoming leery of their ability to fly two, three, or four more years.

I'm firmly in the camp of ramping up Orion to keep our foot in the door as soon as possible, and let our remaining shuttles retire in peace.

Wow, I'm really surprised t... (Below threshold)

Wow, I'm really surprised to hear you dislike George W. Bush's decision so much.

Since it was actually George Bush who directed that NASA stop the Shuttle program, back in 2004.

http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/2825/Space-Shuttle-Program.html

I am glad to find something you disagree with Bush about. However, to say this is evidence that he abhorred exceptionalism, is really going a bit far.

That horse went out of the ... (Below threshold)
anon:

That horse went out of the barn a few years ago. If it was decided today to add more shuttle flights, there would still be a 2 year gap in flying starting next year. There are only a handful of external tanks in inventory and the production line is shut down and disassembled. It will take a few years to have parts (and materials for parts) made, set the assembly line back up, restart production, and have the tanks come off the line. I expect that the solid rocket motors are in a similar state, as well as the liquid fuel motors.

@Woody:My primary concern about keeping the shuttles flying is the problem of shelf-life. We really have exceeded the original design specs on the system. Short of stripping the remaining birds down to the bones and refeathering them, I'm becoming leery of their ability to fly two, three, or four more years.

NASA does this on a regular basis, taking an orbiter out of the fleet for a year or so and doing a thorough inspection and refit. IIRC, one of the orbiters is due for it, one is halfway through the number of allowed flights, and one is at end of certified life.

I'm firmly in the camp of ramping up Orion to keep our foot in the door as soon as possible, and let our remaining shuttles retire in peace.

Thanks! I work on Orion. Alas, our budget is being cut and we are laying off 300 people early next month.

Jim X.Bush vision ... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

Jim X.

Bush vision was to start another man space program not to direct NASA to do global warming research.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/01/14/bush.space/

hcddbz,Obama wants... (Below threshold)

hcddbz,

Obama wants man to reach Mars as well. NASA also doing research into an environment that could cause tremendous problems for our civilization is not antithetical to that.

But, more to the point, it's not fair or accurate to blame Obama for the end of the shuttle program, since this was mapped out by Bush back in 2004.

The problem is obvious. ... (Below threshold)
MF:

The problem is obvious. What states did not vote for Obama. Hint hint... the ones that are
not getting the space funding and are projected to have thousands of layoffs.
This is the worst thing that can happen to America and our future.
only a percentage of a penny goes to the space industry and now what does the US have left to be proud of if Congress passes or doesnt pass the budget needed.
It is a very sad situation here in Texas. Layoffs have started of very talented, dedicated and educated employees.

ps Rick thanks for the arti... (Below threshold)
MF:

ps Rick thanks for the article.

But, more to the p... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
But, more to the point, it's not fair or accurate to blame Obama for the end of the shuttle program, since this was mapped out by Bush back in 2004.

The US simply doesn't have the resources or the will to fund both the shuttle and Orion programs anymore, so Bush sought to replace the shuttle program with the Orion program. The issue is the United States manned space program and Obama is ending that, not Bush.

Hopefully in 2013 the new President will reinstate Orion, cancel and disassemble all of NASA's misguided environment programs.

Jim X.NASA needs t... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

Jim X.

NASA needs to keep being an engineering agency not a pure research one. Engineers have goals and produce things that can be used and measured because they need to solve problems. Manned space missions produce things we can use in space and on earth.

One thing I notices is the Science Fiction political advancement.
1. Really intelligent people cannot be violent.

2. TeraForming
The idea that man can by pumping gases into a plants atmosphere can change the planet. This is what Climate change is all about. Though the models do not work in reality. THat is that all models that were produced have failed instead the of looking and re-elavuating they say we most be missing data.

The issue is the United ... (Below threshold)

The issue is the United States manned space program and Obama is ending that, not Bush.

Mac Lorry, first as noted, Obama is not ending the manned space program. He supports a manned mission to Mars just as Bush did.

Second, having the shuttle program wind down around 2010 was Bush's original plan, starting from 2004.

So, if you're going to hate one President for winding down the program, you're going to have to hate them both.

jim X"Obama is not... (Below threshold)
Sky Captain:

jim X

"Obama is not ending the manned space program. He supports a manned mission to Mars just as Bush did."

Just one question - How the HELL are we going to get there, walk?!?

Winding down the shuttle program is logical, as all 3 remaining vehicles are quite old and Atlantis in particular is in need of total refurbishment.
Shutting down Orion and the Ares booster makes no sense if you want to go to Mars. Commercial companies need $$ to develop rockets, and space flight just isn't economically good business. It is expensive and dangerous.

If Obama is not ending the US manned space flight, he certainly is setting it back a generation.

Private sourcing the space ... (Below threshold)
RicardoVerde:

Private sourcing the space trucking biz is one of the very few policies I agree with the president. Why not sell or give the shuttles to SpaceX or Boeing? They would make decent cargo haulers once you gutted the human enviro hardware. If they get a dozen launches before one blows then that is a dozen more heavy lifts made before another booster of its size is available. Just make sure they don't reenter over populated areas and don't launch them with people aboard.

Yeesh. I hate to agree with... (Below threshold)
Murgatroyd:

Yeesh. I hate to agree with jim x, but he has the facts more or less on his side. Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration" made sense back then, and it makes sense now. Trouble is, the NASA administrator Mike Griffin committed us to the Constellation program as the implementation of the vision, and Constellation was poorly conceived, unsafe, unproven, limited in capacity, and four years behind schedule five years into the program. Oh, and obscenely expensive - a billion bucks a flight for Ares I to take an Orion capsule to orbit.

Obama's substitute makes more sense *IF* he commits to it (although I have reservations about discarding both the Moon and Mars as goals and refocusing on a manned mission to an asteroid). Trouble is, at this point it's still only promises about using commercial contractors and long range plans, any of which could be reversed at a moment's notice by Obama or the bureaucracy - and when did Obama ever keep a promise?

America needs a vigorous space program. Constellation wasn't it, and I'm worried that Obama's vague scheme isn't it either.

Meanwhile, bryanD gives us mre evidence that he's a moby. Nobody could be so obnoxiously stupid without actively striving to be:

"American Exceptionalism" was cover for government programs that led to WW1, WW2, and the managerial state.

Think about that statement. Imagine the worldview of a person who could have written that sentence.

The moment the last shuttle... (Below threshold)

The moment the last shuttle is made impossible to fly again, the Russian Space Program will drastically increase the costs to send our astronauts to the ISS. That's what I'd do if I were them, we aren't going to start a war over it that's for sure.

Essentially by ending our means to get to the ISS ourselves, we're abandoning it to the Russians completely. They will have no reason other than cash to take us for a ride, and if they shut us out, our spots will be taken up by other nations Russia has better relations with.

Ending our ability to put men in space is ludicrous until we have a replacement vehicle that is man-rated. Until we have a replacement, either private or NASA, keep the shuttles in service.




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