Via FL Today Flame Trench - Space Blog http://www.floridatoday.com/content/blogs/space/2009/07/presidential-panel-envisions-shuttle.shtml
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Presidential Panel Ponders Shuttle Extension
A presidential panel is reviewing an option to extend the shuttle program through 2014, significantly reducing an anticipated five-year gap in U.S. human spaceflight.
The option is one of three that the panel -- dubbed the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee -- presented during a public hearing in League City, Texas, which is located near NASA's Johnson Space Center.
The other options:
++Retire the shuttle fleet as planned near the end of 2010.
++Add one additional shuttle mission and keep flying the shuttle through 2012.
Former NASA astronaut Sally Ride said the option to extend shuttle flights through 2014 is "the most realistic way to significantly reduce the gap" while taking advantage of the full capabilities of the International Space Station.
Ride said extending shuttle fleet operations through 2014 would enable the U.S. to retain a critically skilled work force that has taken decades to establish.
The option would only make sense if NASA developed a shuttle-derived heavy-lift vehicle for future missions beyond Earth orbit, Ride said. That implies NASA would not proceed with the development of its planned Ares V heavy-lift launcher.
The panel also will present the White House with options to extend the life of the International Space Station beyond 2015. Panel members indicated options passed on to the White House will include options to operate the station at least through 2020 if not longer.
Then-President George Bush in January 2004 put NASA on ccourse to complete the International Space Station and retire the shuttle fleet by the end of September 2010.
NASA at the time was directed to develop a new spaceship for astronauts by 2014 and then return Americans to the moon by 2020.
NASA is developing the Ares I and Ares V rockets along with an Apollo-style Orion space capsules to meet those goals.
NASA now has seven shuttle missions left on its books, the last of which is scheduled to launch in September of 2010. Ride said the panel did an analysis that showed the last flight is more likely to slip to March 2011 and that the Obama Administration and NASA should budget accordingly. She estimated that the additional cost in 2011 would be about $1.5 billion.
The second option -- adding one mission and flying shuttle through 2012 -- would cost $4.2 billion. This option was chosen because NASA now will have only one external tank available after the currently planned final mission.
The panel did not provide a cost estimate for the third option -- flying one to two shuttle missions per year through 2014.