Shuttle retirement an urgent transition issue

What does the impending retirement of the space shuttle have in common with US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, oversight of food safety, the 2010 Census, and the transition to digital TV? They’re all issues the Government Accountability Office has identified as “urgent policy concerns” that, they believe, “require prioritized federal action”. Regarding the shuttle specifically:

The administration needs to move quickly to nominate and fill key leadership positions within NASA because the decision on whether to retire or continue operating the Space Shuttle will need to be made soon.

In order to preserve this investment option for the next administration, NASA needs to retain the workforce, facilities, equipment, and suppliers necessary to continue operating the Space Shuttle.

In its brief discussion of the issue, the GAO argues that extending the shuttle beyond 2010 “may offer the best course for the future of the International Space Station” given concerns about relations with Russia and the gap in US access, government or commercial, if the shuttle is retired in 2010. (It doesn’t note that extending the shuttle does nothing for long-term access, since the shuttle can’t take the Soyuz’s role as a station lifeboat.) “However, extending the shuttle could also have significant consequences on the future direction of human spaceflight for the United States. Specifically, NASA is counting on the retirement of the shuttle to free up resources to pursue a new generation of space flight vehicles that is anticipated to come online in 2015.”

The GAO also has additional information about NASA-related issues facing the next administration, including completion of the ISS, development of Constellation, balancing investments in the agency’s various programs, and improving financial management.

7 comments to Shuttle retirement an urgent transition issue

  • Vladislaw

    From the GAO, ” as the new vehicles are expected to cost more than $230 billion to develop and deploy.”

    230 BILLION just to DEVELOP and DEPLOY?

    Where the hell did THIS number come from and how do they define “deploy” costs? up to the first flight? The first ISS manned docking flight? Includes the cost for the first lunar flight?

    My understanding it was going to cost 23-28 billion! Where did the 230 BILLION to develope come from. Or did I miss some memos?


    “My understanding it was going to cost 23-28 billion! Where did the 230 BILLION to develope come from. ”

    Ares I/Orion development through ISS IOC in 2015-16 is topping out at $25 billion. The $230 billion figure includes that and Ares V, EDS, Altair, and lunar-block Orion development through lunar IOC circa 2020.


  • Even $23B is obscene bordering on ridiculous. EELV, Falcon IX/Dragon, and Taurus II/Cygnus combined cost the government less than $2.5B to develop. What a bloody waste of taxpayer resources.

    Ares/Orion delenda est.


  • Mark

    “The $230 billion figure includes that and Ares V, EDS, Altair, and lunar-block Orion development through lunar IOC circa 2020.”

    That doesn’t make sense, say NASA gets $20B a year until 2020, that’s $220B total. That includes the Science and Aeronautics budgets, not to mention shuttle and ISS support for the next few years. The numbers must be wrong somewhere or the figure goes past the year 2020.

  • Al Fansome

    It is also possible the GAO took NASA’s original estimate for Constellation, and then applied a cost-growth factor based on NASA’s historical performance on major programs.

    Remember, the space station was originally supposed to cost $8 Billion.

    $230 Billion might be the GAO’s estimate of what it would actually take NASA to put a permanent human base on the Moon … after all the delays, design changes, over-runs, more delays, etc.

    – Al

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