Senior NASA Official Bemoans Shuttle Retirement

Spacewalkers Drew Feustel (left) and John Grunsfeld participate in the third Hubble repair spacewalk of STS-125. Photo Credit: NASA
Spacewalkers Drew Feustel (left) and John Grunsfeld participate in the third Hubble repair spacewalk of STS-125. Photo Credit: NASA

David Leckone, one of the Hubble Space Telescope’s senior scientists, bemoaned the planned retirement of the space shuttle next year, criticizing NASA’s for a lack of leadership and vision in producing an Orion replacement vehicle based on the old Apollo capsule.

Spaceflight Now reports that Leckone said:

“I think the ability of space-suited human beings, seven of them, flying in a spaceship carrying a very, very heavy cargo, 20,000, 30,000 pounds, to low-Earth orbit, to then be able to go out in spacesuits and perform extraordinarily intricate operations … and do it successfully, I think that is one of the most remarkable achievements that NASA has ever done,” he said.

“And it just makes me want to cry to think that this is the end of it. There is no person out there, no leadership out there, there’s no vision out there to pick up the baton that we’re about to hand off and carry it forward. And I think that’s just a shame, to abandon one of the most impressive, refined, sophisticated capabilities that this agency as a whole, human side and robotics side, has achieved.”

Leckrone, senior Hubble project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said giving up the space shuttle represents a “long-term loss of hard-won capability and costly capability.”

“If there’s a future for this agency, it’s got to be in an innovative direction like that,” he said. “We can’t just keep doing the same old thing year after year. It’s just not as productive as it could be otherwise. So, that’s my piece. And I’m sticking with it.”

Strong words. Read the full story.