Shuttle supporters on the offensive

It’s been clear for some time that there are a few members of Congress, like Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who would like to see the shuttle’s life extended beyond 2010 in order to minimize, or at least delay, the economic fallout that could hit the state’s Space Coast region once the shuttle program shuts down. However, the last week has seen a remarkable push by Florida’s congressional delegation, including both Republicans and Democrats, to try and keep the shuttle alive beyond next year. No fewer than five members of Congress from Florida have acted in the last week, in one form or another:

On Wednesday Rep. Alan Grayson (D) called on President Obama to extend the shuttle’s life in a letter. “Mr. President, the current schedule to end the Space Shuttle Program is too compressed, and therefore potentially dangerous to the crews,” he wrote. “I strongly encourage you to space out the remaining NASA missions as long as possible, preferably until the Constellation Space Exploration Program is funded, constructed and ready for launch.” The Orlando Sentinel that Grayson said he had “personally lobbied” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on the topic.

On Thursday Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D) voted against the House budget resolution because it did not include a (largely symbolic) provision like the Senate one to enable NASA to fly the shuttle into at least 2011. “Setting a hard deadline for Shuttle retirement could cause dangerous schedule pressure and risk jobs,” she said in a statement published by Florida Today. “I will keep fighting to ensure that NASA has the flexibility it needs to maintain safety and retain a highly skilled workforce.”

On Friday Reps. Bill Posey (R) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) introduced legislation to extend the life of the shuttle, in much the same manner as Dave Weldon (whose seat Posey now holds) attempted to do last year. The text of HR 1962 isn’t available yet, but the “American Space Access Act” would require NASA to keep flying the shuttle until either Constellation comes online or “a domestic supplier is certified by NASA as capable of taking humans into space and docking with the space station”.

Finally, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) told the Sentinel on Friday that he would like to keep the shuttle flying. “It will be a talent drain for Florida if we allow that [shuttle retirement in 2010] to happen,” said Meek, who is considering running for the Senate next year to succeed the retiring Sen. Mel Martinez. “As far as I’m concerned, as we look at state issues, this will be a major, major issue for me… I hope that we will get some extension out of NASA and the administration out of the shuttle program.”

So is all of this activity a coincidence, or evidence of a concerted effort by the Florida delegation to press for a shuttle life extension, perhaps seeing an opportunity in the lack of a NASA administrator and/or lack of space policy details to try and influence a change?

8 comments to Shuttle supporters on the offensive

  • chuck2200

    If Shuttle is to be extended it will need tanks.
    Is there any sign of a cooperative effort between the Florida (KSC) and Louisiana (MAF) delegations?

  • Ron Carlson

    I think it makes the most sense to keep the shuttle flying until Ares I and Orion are online.

    Who’s bright idea was it to retire the Shuttles in 2010 and leave America at the mercy of the Russians to get to the International Space Station?

    Congress could easily loosen up the purse strings and allow NASA $20 billion per year and a yearly 5% increase in their budget.

    Congress certainly isn’t shy about giving crooks and thieves on Wall street many hundreds of billions that will never be seen again.

  • Bob Mahoney

    I am curious. I hate to tread dark pathways, but supposing the current administration fully endorses the option of flying the shuttle past 2010 and we end up doing so for a number of years. If, God forbid, another shuttle accident were then to occur, then

    a) How will the administration’s role in the decision to keep flying (countering the recommendations/policy of the previous admin) play in the press?

    b) Assuming that the Ares development is still underway, how will it be impacted by such an accident?

    c) Can the US human spaceflight program survive another such catastrophe given that support remains tepid at best?

  • Ron Carlson

    It is obvious that blasting off from Earth on a rocket is a dangerous business.

    Despite that, many thousands have applied to be astronauts.

    All astronauts are adults and paid well for the job they do and the risks they take.

    I would bet money that more people are killed in traffic accidents in Washington, D.C. each year than in all the space programs of all space faring nations through out history.

    Yet we don’t make manufacturing, selling and driving cars illegal as a result.

  • anonymous

    Keep the shuttle flying? Are you people serious? It is nothing more than a fraudulent jobs programs! NASA have had their chance with manned failures for many years… it is time for the private sector such as SpaceX and Bigelow to fill that manned spaceflight void. The dark ages of NASA’s monopoly on manned spaceflight should end.

    However, NASA (or is it JPL?) can still do the robotic explorations very well – at least THAT part of NASA actually does something worthwhile and produces results!

  • […] members of Florida’s Congressional delegation push to keep the space shuttle flying after 2010, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) remains on the side of Constellation, particularly the Ares 1. He told […]

  • Shuttle winged orbiter technology is still valuable!
    Despite perceived technical bugs. This technology should be transfered to private consortium to develop (Shuttle C). Human or/and robotic operations with winged orbiter opens up more opportunities in commercial space operations than does capsule reentry.

    Mr. Shelby has a point. Gov’t has already committed Ares. So it’s time to work hard and deliver Ares. There are plenty of options in stacking multistage or parallel staging that is scalable. Since the gov’t wants to go down that track this is very good technology.

    May the best Gov’t launch system win, transfer Shuttle technology to privateers and fly Ares ASAP.

  • The Shuttle is the reason our manned space program has been
    stuck in low Earth orbit for almost four decades. The only reason
    the ISS was built was for the Shuttle to have somewhere to go. The
    SpaceX Falcon 9 booster and Dragon capsule can handle crew and
    cargo runs to the space station. And unlike Ares I it is closer to
    flight status. Keeping the shuttle flying is irresponsible at best,
    dangerous at worst.

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