Feeds

McCain: Keep Shuttle flying, don't trust Russia

Show us the money, says NASA

High performance access to file storage

Presidential contender John McCain and two other bigshot Republican senators have written to George Bush urging that NASA keep the Space Shuttle fleet alive beyond 2010. The politicians are concerned about US reliance on Russia for manned space transport in the early years of the next decade.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Senators McCain, Hutchison (Texas) and Vitter (Louisiana) wrote to the President on Monday.

"At a minimum, we request that you direct NASA to take no action for at least one year from now that would preclude the extended use of the space shuttle beyond 2010," the three men stated.

At present, NASA's plan is that the shuttle fleet would not fly beyond 2010. From then until the arrival of new rockets and capsules under the Constellation programme - to launch at the earliest in 2014 - America would possess no ship capable of putting an astronaut into space. In particular, flights to the International Space Station (ISS) would be dependent on Russian Soyuz vehicles.

With tensions high between Russia and its ISS partners regarding the recent fighting in Georgia and Russia's subsequent recognition of breakaway Georgian regions, many are reluctant to rely on Moscow for space lift. Senator McCain says he is also upset with the Russians over their sales of weapons and other technology to countries such as Iran, and argues that funding Soyuz manufacture indirectly assists ballistic-missile development by America's possible enemies.

Prospects for a non-Russian astronaut ship before Constellation seem slim. There have been proposals for Europe to build a man-rated version of its "Jules Verne" cargo module, but the ESA so far seems just as keen on a cheaper collaborative effort with Russia. Tech zillionaire Elon Musk's Falcon rocket programme is intended to offer a crewed capsule called "Dragon" in time, but at present is struggling with technical mishaps after a third consecutive launch failure for the Falcon 1. The upcoming Falcon 9 rocket - the version which could potentially carry astronauts to orbit - has yet to fly.

For its part, NASA says that the shuttles must go in order to free up cash for Constellation, and that a gap in US manned lift is inevitable without extra funds. While McCain and his Republican colleagues are happy to demand more shuttle flights, they don't specify where the money should come from. McCain's presidential rival Barack Obama has also called for at least one extra shuttle mission above current plans, but he too is loath to offer details on the needed lucre. His fellow Democrats in Congress don't seem even as convinced as he is of the need.

Any more than "one or two" extra shuttle missions, according to NASA's interpretation of the Columbia disaster investigation, would require an enormously expensive recertification of the shuttle fleet, which the space agency says would blow the Constellation budget out of the water completely.

It appears that first decisions are imminent, in any event. Every space shuttle flight requires the use of a new main fuel tank, and the huge orange tanks are made at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Michoud is currently slated to start firing workers and dismantling its unique equipment this autumn.

Read the Sentinel report here. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.