On the heels of its extended editorial Sunday about the future of the ISS, the New York Times published another space-related editorial Friday, this time on the space shuttle. The editorial cites NASA’s decision to delay the STS-121 launch to next March, as well as the release of the Stafford-Covey final report and the much-discussed appendix by several members of the panel. The editorial goes over well-hashed arguments about the shuttle, suggesting that the delay and the report “ought to force the administration and Congress to take a much harder look at how long the shuttles should keep flying – or perhaps whether they should be flying at all.” I would expect that the future of the shuttle program to (again) be the subject of Congressional hearings this fall. It’s possible that these issues could affect the NASA authorization bill, which the Senate has yet to approve.
However, the Times’ suggestion that the shuttle be retired is mild compared to what Steve Forbes suggests in an editorial in his eponymous publication [free registration required]. In a proposal no doubt welcomed by any remaining libertarians, he calls for nothing short of dismantling the space agency:
One inescapable response: Abolish the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) or drastically scale back its mission. Since the moon landings over three decades ago, NASA has become an obstacle to advancing space exploration and travel. If NASA had been in charge of developing the automobile, we’d still be riding horses.
Some of his suggestions aren’t terribly new, such as endorsing tax breaks for private space exploration. However, he also argues that the “shuttle program should be turned over to the private sector”, and the ISS, too. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bother to develop a reasonable business plan for private operations of the shuttle.