Having spent near a quarter century and $100 billion on the International Space Station, NASA may have significant problems completing the orbital outpost by 2010 and supporting it after the agency retires the space shuttle the same year.
That is the rather dour assessment delivered by the Government Accountability Office during a Congressional hearing on Thursday. GAO’s Cristina Chaplain said NASA’s station completion plans”require much to happen and very little to go wrong” over the next two years. Once the agency completes station construction, it will retire the space shuttle.
Chaplain said NASA will have a difficult time replacing the shuttle’s large payload capacity. The significant “shortfall in (NASA’s) ability to provide logistical support to the station … may well impact support for a six-person crew and the quality of the research that can be conducted,” she said.
NASA officials disagreed, expressing confidence that they can finish the station in two years and keep the facility supplied with a mixture of Russian, Japanese and European vehicles. The space agency also is funding development of commercial resupply ships under its COTS program.
There’s more about GAO’s report and NASA’s response below:
GAO Report (PDF Document)
Shuttle’s retirement could leave space station lacking support
Shuttles’ end may leave space station out in the cold
Report: Supplying ISS will be difficult