Authorization negotiations

Aerospace Daily reports that Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), chair of the space subcommittee of the House Science Committee, plans to meet with his Senate counterpart, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), chair of the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, as well as ranking member Bill Nelson (D-FL). The discussion will be in advance of any House-Senate conference on the NASA authorization bill, with a particular focus on setting a retirement date for the shuttle: Calvert and his colleagues had sought a 2010 retirement date (although the final version removed that language), while Hutchison and Nelson have sought to keep the shuttle flying beyond 2010, if needed, until a replacement vehicle is operating. One wonders how yesterday’s decision to postpone any future shuttle launches until the ET foam problem affects these discussions—particularly if the delay stretches beyond just a few months: will it prompt more calls for an early retirement of the fleet, or be ammunition for those who believe there’s no way the shuttle can be retired as early as 2010 and still get the ISS (mostly) assembled?

4 comments to Authorization negotiations

  • It has become clear that the space shuttle can only ever retire in disgrace. The talk about “completing” the space station is nonsense. You can’t finish a quagmire; you can only declare victory and go home. And fundamentally, the space shuttle is a self-perpetuating hero factory. So every new flight delay for the space shuttle makes its retirement come sooner, not later.

  • TORO

    Two reasons to retire the shuttle are (1) risk to crew and (2) cost of cargo. If the CEV, at first, is primarily a lower risk human transport, then the reason to keep or not keep the shuttle is cost of cargo. As on Earth, there are two basic categories of cargo – cheap and expensive, also often known as perishable and non-perishable. The shuttle cannot do the cheap type, but until the Fed Ex or UPS competitors come on board, what forcing function is out there?

    The wildcards include PRC space plans, US 2006 elections incuding the obvious 2 term top gun limit, Rutan innovators, and global stability and economies.

    There is one other item. Once ISS is built, is it time to tear it down, or what?

  • On this theme there was a great interview (certainly by TV standards) of Keith Cowing and Alex Roland conducted by Ray Suarez on the PBS NewsHour. Whether or not Roland is a horrible hack as Dwayne Day described him in the Space Review (I don’t think that he is), the news today was making his case for him. Keith Cowing was clearly on the defensive, I thought.

    But still, although I don’t agree with Cowing at all, I’m glad that he was there to share his wisdom.

  • Joseph Warrantino

    I saw that. They should call it the Gadfly Newshour. One of these guys once worked for NASA (as an aeronautics historian) over two decades ago. The other once worked for NASA (as a biologist) a decade ago. Their primary qualification appears to be that they have opinions and attitude, which are not exactly in short supply these days.